High-frequency synchronous activity of neurons in the cerebral cortex and thalamus is a concomitant of discrete conscious events. In the primate thalamus, a newly identified population of neurons provides a basis for this synchronization. A matrix of calbindin-immunoreactive neurons extends throughout the thalamus and projects to superficial layers of cortex over wide areas, unconstrained by boundaries between areas. In some nuclei, a core of parvalbumin-immunoreactive neurons is superimposed upon the matrix. Core neurons project in a topographically ordered fashion to middle layers of the cortex in an area-specific manner. Matrix neurons, recruited by corticothalamic connections, can disperse activity across cortical areas and thalamic nuclei. Their superficial terminations can synchronize specific and nonspecific elements of the thalamocortical network in coherent activity that underlies cognitive events.