Converging evidence from anatomic and physiological studies suggests that the interaction of high-order association cortices with the thalamus is necessary to focus attention on a task in a complex environment with multiple distractions. Interposed between the thalamus and cortex, the inhibitory thalamic reticular nucleus intercepts and regulates communication between the two structures. Recent findings demonstrate that a unique circuitry links the prefrontal cortex with the reticular nucleus and may underlie the process of selective attention to enhance salient stimuli and suppress irrelevant stimuli in behavior. Unlike other cortices, some prefrontal areas issue widespread projections to the reticular nucleus, extending beyond the frontal sector to the sensory sectors of the nucleus, and may influence the flow of sensory information from the thalamus to the cortex. Unlike other thalamic nuclei, the mediodorsal nucleus, which is the principal thalamic nucleus for the prefrontal cortex, has similarly widespread connections with the reticular nucleus. Unlike sensory association cortices, some terminations from prefrontal areas to the reticular nucleus are large, suggesting efficient transfer of information. We propose a model showing that the specialized features of prefrontal pathways in the reticular nucleus may allow selection of relevant information and override distractors, in processes that are deranged in schizophrenia.