The thalamus as a monitor of motor outputs

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2002 Dec 29;357(1428):1809-21. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2002.1171.


Many of the ascending pathways to the thalamus have branches involved in movement control. In addition, the recently defined, rich innervation of 'higher' thalamic nuclei (such as the pulvinar) from pyramidal cells in layer five of the neocortex also comes from branches of long descending axons that supply motor structures. For many higher thalamic nuclei the clue to understanding the messages that are relayed to the cortex will depend on knowing the nature of these layer five motor outputs and on defining how messages from groups of functionally distinct output types are combined as inputs to higher cortical areas. Current evidence indicates that many and possibly all thalamic relays to the neocortex are about instructions that cortical and subcortical neurons are contributing to movement control. The perceptual functions of the cortex can thus be seen to represent abstractions from ongoing motor instructions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Animals
  • Brain Stem / physiology
  • Cats
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Efferent Pathways / physiology
  • Models, Neurological
  • Spinal Cord / physiology
  • Thalamus / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology