In relaxed wakefulness, the EEG exhibits robust rhythms in the alpha band (8-13 Hz), which decelerate to theta (approximately 2-7 Hz) frequencies during early sleep. In animal models, these rhythms occur coherently with synchronized activity in the thalamus. However, the mechanisms of this thalamic activity are unknown. Here we show that, in slices of the lateral geniculate nucleus maintained in vitro, activation of the metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR) mGluR1a induces synchronized oscillations at alpha and theta frequencies that share similarities with thalamic alpha and theta rhythms recorded in vivo. These in vitro oscillations are driven by an unusual form of burst firing that is present in a subset of thalamocortical neurons and are synchronized by gap junctions. We propose that mGluR1a-induced oscillations are a potential mechanism whereby the thalamus promotes EEG alpha and theta rhythms in the intact brain.