In everyday life our brain often receives information about events and objects in the real world via several sensory modalities, because natural objects often stimulate more than one sense. These different types of information are processed in our brain along different sensory-specific pathways, but are finally integrated into a unified percept. During the last years, studies provided compelling evidence that the neural basis of multisensory integration is not restricted to higher association areas of the cortex, but can already occur at low-level stages of sensory cortical processing and even in subcortical structures. In this article we will review the potential role of several thalamic structures in multisensory interplay and discuss their extensive anatomical connections with sensory-specific and multisensory cortical structures. We conclude that sensory-specific thalamic structures may act as a crucial processing node of multisensory interplay in addition to their traditional role as sensory relaying structure.
Keywords: anatomy; cortex; fMRI; multisensory integration; thalamus.