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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2016, Article ID 8723623, 20 pages
Review Article

The Current Status of Somatostatin-Interneurons in Inhibitory Control of Brain Function and Plasticity

Laboratory of Neuroplasticity and Neuroproteomics, KU Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium

Received 4 March 2016; Accepted 12 May 2016

Academic Editor: Bruno Poucet

Copyright © 2016 Isabelle Scheyltjens and Lutgarde Arckens. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The mammalian neocortex contains many distinct inhibitory neuronal populations to balance excitatory neurotransmission. A correct excitation/inhibition equilibrium is crucial for normal brain development, functioning, and controlling lifelong cortical plasticity. Knowledge about how the inhibitory network contributes to brain plasticity however remains incomplete. Somatostatin- (SST-) interneurons constitute a large neocortical subpopulation of interneurons, next to parvalbumin- (PV-) and vasoactive intestinal peptide- (VIP-) interneurons. Unlike the extensively studied PV-interneurons, acknowledged as key components in guiding ocular dominance plasticity, the contribution of SST-interneurons is less understood. Nevertheless, SST-interneurons are ideally situated within cortical networks to integrate unimodal or cross-modal sensory information processing and therefore likely to be important mediators of experience-dependent plasticity. The lack of knowledge on SST-interneurons partially relates to the wide variety of distinct subpopulations present in the sensory neocortex. This review informs on those SST-subpopulations hitherto described based on anatomical, molecular, or electrophysiological characteristics and whose functional roles can be attributed based on specific cortical wiring patterns. A possible role for these subpopulations in experience-dependent plasticity will be discussed, emphasizing on learning-induced plasticity and on unimodal and cross-modal plasticity upon sensory loss. This knowledge will ultimately contribute to guide brain plasticity into well-defined directions to restore sensory function and promote lifelong learning.