Jasper Poort, laureate of the 2016 Heineken Young Scientists Award for Cognitive Sciences, will give a special lecture on Thursday 29 September at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience in Amsterdam.
Our brain is constantly overloaded with sensory input but it has limited processing capacity. We therefore need to select those objects that are most relevant for behaviour. We recently found that neuronal responses in the mouse primary visual cortex (V1) become increasingly selective when animals learn the behavioural relevance of novel visual stimuli.
However, it is unclear how learning reorganises the activity of different cell types, including excitatory pyramidal neurons and different classes of GABAergic interneurons. Although pyramidal cells provide the output from the local circuit to other cortical areas, different interneuron classes can inhibit pyramidal cells as well as each other, and thus exert a powerful influence on circuit activity. We therefore simultaneously measured responses in V1 of pyramidal cells and parvalbumin, somatostatin and vasoactive intestinal peptide expressing interneurons during learning. Our results show that learning leads to specific and concerted changes in the selectivity and co-activation patterns across multiple cell classes, and that increased stimulus-specific inhibition can contribute to selective processing of relevant objects.