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Malik, R;Li, Y;Schamiloglu, S;Sohal, VS;
Prefrontal cortex (PFC) is postulated to exert “top-down control” on information processing throughout the brain to promote specific behaviors. However, pathways mediating top-down control remain poorly understood. In particular, knowledge about direct prefrontal connections that might facilitate top-down control of hippocampal information processing remains sparse. Here we describe monosynaptic long-range GABAergic projections from PFC to hippocampus. These preferentially inhibit vasoactive intestinal polypeptide-expressing interneurons, which are known to disinhibit hippocampal microcircuits. Indeed, stimulating prefrontal-hippocampal GABAergic projections increases hippocampal feedforward inhibition and reduces hippocampal activity in vivo. The net effect of these actions is to specifically enhance the signal-to-noise ratio for hippocampal encoding of object locations and augment object-induced increases in spatial information. Correspondingly, activating or inhibiting these projections promotes or suppresses object exploration, respectively. Together, these results elucidate a top-down prefrontal pathway in which long-range GABAergic projections target disinhibitory microcircuits, thereby enhancing signals and network dynamics underlying exploratory behavior.