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Information processing in the neocortex is performed by GABAergic interneurons that are integrated with excitatory neurons into precisely structured circuits. To reveal how each neuron type shapes sensory representations, we measured spikes and membrane potential of specific types of neurons in the barrel cortex while mice performed an active, whisker-dependent object localization task. Whiskers were tracked with millisecond precision. Fast-spiking (FS) neurons were activated by touch with short latency and by whisking. FS neurons track thalamic input and provide feedforward inhibition. Somatostatin (SOM)-expressing neurons were also excited by touch, but with a delay (5 ms) compared to excitatory (E) and FS neurons. SOM neurons monitor local excitation and provide feedback inhibition. Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP)-expressing neurons were not driven by touch but elevated their spike rate during whisking, disinhibiting E and FS neurons. Our data reveal rules of recruitment for specific interneuron types, providing foundations for understanding cortical computations.