Our perception of the environment around us is highly dependent on the context in which we find ourselves. On a fundamental level our visual system functions differently depending on the physical state that we are in; for example, whether we are actively running through the environment or sitting quietly and observing a scene.
In this study Nathalie and her team have characterized the activity of specific subtypes of neurons in the mouse primary visual cortex during running compared to stationary periods in order to tease apart the neural circuits that underlie this state-dependent change in activity.
They found that a specific subtype of inhibitory interneuron responded differently during running periods depending on whether the animal was in darkness or in the presence of visual stimulation; indicating functional changes at the network level depending on the sensory context.
These results challenge the prevailing explanation for running-related modulation of visual processing, highlight the complexity of these cortical circuits as well as the diverse function of inhibitory neurons in the brain.