Martinotti cells are small, specialized, multipolar neurons with ascending axons and short branching dendrites. They are scattered throughout various layers of the cerebral cortex and send their axons up to the cortical layer I where they form axonal arborization. The arbors transgress multiple columns in layer VI and make contacts with the distal tuft dendrites of pyramidal cells. Martinotti cells express somatostatin and sometimes calbindin, but not parvalbumin or vasoactive intestinal peptide.
Recent research suggests that Martinotti cells are associated with a cortical dampening mechanism. When the pyramidal neuron, which is the most common type of neuron in the brain, starts getting overexcited, Martinotti cells start sending inhibitory signals to the surrounding neurons, representing crucial interneurons for feedback inhibition in and between neocortical layers and columns (Wang et al, 2004). Martinotti cells have been proposed to be involved in memory formation and storage (Eccles, 1983) and in neurodegenerative diseases (Beal et al. 1988).
Martinotti cells were discovered by Carlo Martinotti, a student of Camillo Golgi.