, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 49–56 | Cite as

What types of neocortical GABAergic neurons do really exist?

  • Jochen F. StaigerEmail author
  • Martin Möck
  • Alvar Proenneke
  • Mirko Witte
Review article


The neocortex is regarded as the brain structure responsible for mediating higher brain functions, like conscious perception of sensory signals, learning and memory or programming of goal-directed behavior. Cortical circuits that enable these functions are formed by, first, a larger population of excitatory so-called principal cells (i.e., glutamatergic pyramidal cells; ca. 80–85 %), which issue long-distance projections, in addition to local recurrent collaterals, which form the major part of local cortical excitatory circuits. A second, smaller population of inhibitory also called local or short-axoned interneurons (i.e., GABAergic neurons; ca. 15–20 %), however, contribute heavily to intracortical microcircuits too. They can be subdivided by their location in specific areas, layers, or columns, which possess specific input–output relationships, but also in terms of morphology, electrophysiology, molecular expression profiles, and subcellular target specificity. Here it is proposed that, at present, in the rodent neocortex this population of GABAergic neurons can be reasonably divided into six different types, mainly due to their unique axonal patterns and subcellular target specificity: (i) axo-axonic cells, (ii) basket cells, (iii) Martinotti cells, (iv) bipolar/bitufted cells, (v) neurogliaform cells, and (vi) projection neurons. These different types of GABAergic neurons strongly govern the working of cortical circuits for meaningful behavior by feed-forward and feedback inhibition as well as disinhibition. Thus, they keep excitation in check, perform gain modulation, and open temporal or spatial windows for input control or output generation.


Action potential firing pattern Calcium-binding proteins Cortical circuits Excitation–inhibition balance Inhibitory interneurons Neuropeptides 



Many thanks to the members of the Barrel Cortical Circuits Group for helpful discussions. This work is supported by the German Research Council (DFG) since 1997. We sincerely apologize to all colleagues whose great research could not be referred due to limited space and the special focus of this review article.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jochen F. Staiger
    • 1
    Email author
  • Martin Möck
    • 1
  • Alvar Proenneke
    • 1
  • Mirko Witte
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for NeuroanatomyUniversity Medical Center, Georg-August-UniversityGöttingenDeutschland

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