The aim of this review is to present clinically relevant data on prenatal development of thalamocortical connections in the human brain. The analysis is based on extensive Zagreb Neuroembryological Collection, including more than 500 prenatal human brains stained with various classical neurohistological, as well as modern histochemical and immunohistochemical methods. The connection of thalamocortical axons during the 'waiting' period with transient cortical subplate zone and subsequent synaptic engagement in the cortical plate is the main connectivity event in the late foetus and preterm infant. This connectivity is the structural substrate for the endogeneous subplate and sensory-driven circuitry generating transient electrical phenomena and may represent a transient network in the developmental history of consciousness.
Conclusion: Findings presented in this review should be considered in the management of pain in preterm infants, in searching for the vulnerability of the subplate zone in diagnostic procedures using the in vivo MRI and in revealing the developmental origin of cognitive and mental disorders.