When looking at a complex landscape, the eye needs to focus in on important details without losing the big picture—a charging lion in a jungle, for example. Now, a new study by Salk scientists shows how inhibitory neurons play a critical role in this process.
The study, published May 25, 2021, in the journal Cell Reports, shows that inhibitory neurons do more than just inhibit neuron activity like an off-switch; paradoxically, they actually increase the amount of information transmitted through the nervous system when it needs to be flexible. To make this possible, inhibitory neurons need to be integrated into the circuit in a specific way. These observations could help scientists better understand and treat disorders involving our ability to focus and modulate signals based on the bigger picture, which are altered in conditions such as anxiety and attention deficit disorders.