The functional role of the medio dorsal thalamic nucleus in olfaction

Brain Res Rev. 2009 Dec 11;62(1):109-26. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresrev.2009.09.007. Epub 2009 Oct 1.


Olfaction is unique relative to other sensory modalities in terms of how its neuroanatomy is organized within the brain and its perceptual properties. Olfactory information processing occurs via connections made directly from primary processing areas (piriform cortex) to neocortical structures (orbitofrontal cortex) as well as indirectly via the medio-dorsal nucleus of the thalamus (MDNT). To date, little is known about the functional significance of the MDNT in olfactory information processing. The aim of this article is to review and discuss thalamic function in olfaction. We draw upon research in human neuroimaging, neuropsychology, as well as animal and neurophysiological studies on the thalamus and MDNT in general, before focusing our discussion on the effects of MDNT lesions specific to olfactory function. Finally, although these data are currently limited and sometimes conflicting, especially those based upon human pathology, the putative roles of the MDNT in olfactory information processing and notably its role in attention, are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mediodorsal Thalamic Nucleus / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology*
  • Smell / physiology*