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Assortment of GABAergic Plasticity in the Cortical Interneuron Melting Pot

DOI: 10.1155/2011/976856

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Cortical structures of the adult mammalian brain are characterized by a spectacular diversity of inhibitory interneurons, which use GABA as neurotransmitter. GABAergic neurotransmission is fundamental for integrating and filtering incoming information and dictating postsynaptic neuronal spike timing, therefore providing a tight temporal code used by each neuron, or ensemble of neurons, to perform sophisticated computational operations. However, the heterogeneity of cortical GABAergic cells is associated to equally diverse properties governing intrinsic excitability as well as strength, dynamic range, spatial extent, anatomical localization, and molecular components of inhibitory synaptic connections that they form with pyramidal neurons. Recent studies showed that similarly to their excitatory (glutamatergic) counterparts, also inhibitory synapses can undergo activity-dependent changes in their strength. Here, some aspects related to plasticity and modulation of adult cortical and hippocampal GABAergic synaptic transmission will be reviewed, aiming at providing a fresh perspective towards the elucidation of the role played by specific cellular elements of cortical microcircuits during both physiological and pathological operations. 1. Introduction The cerebral cortex (which includes the hippocampus, the entorhinal cortex, the piriform cortex, and the neocortex) is the origin of the most sophisticated cognitive functions and complex behaviors. Indeed, the constant computation of incoming sensory information is dynamically integrated to provide a coherent representation of the world, elaborate the past, predict the future, and ultimately develop a consciousness and the self. In particular, the specific activity states of intricate cortical networks often produce a wide range of rhythmic activities, believed to provide the computational substrate for different aspects of cognition and various behaviors [1, 2]. Cortical oscillations range from slow-wave activity (<1?Hz) to ultrafast oscillations (>100?Hz), with several intermediate rhythms (e.g., theta, beta gamma), each of which is considered to underlie specific cognitive aspects, such as non-REM sleep (slow-waves), sensory integration (gamma), working memory (theta), and motor planning (beta) [1]. Importantly, inhibitory neurons were proposed to play a fundamental role in the genesis of most of these rhythms [3–13] through the specialized activity of their GABAergic synapses [7–10]. In fact, it is noteworthy that malfunctioning of specific GABAergic circuits is often indicated as a leading


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