Glutamatergic pathways dominate information processing in the brain, but these are not homogeneous. They include two distinct types: Class 1, which carries the main information for processing, and Class 2, which serves a modulatory role. Identifying the Class 1 inputs in a circuit can lead to a better understanding of its function. Also, identifying Class 1 inputs to a thalamic nucleus tells us its main function (e.g. the lateral geniculate nucleus, or LGN, is the relay of retinal Class 1 input), and such identification leads to a division of thalamic relays into first and higher order: the former receives Class 1 inputs from subcortical sources; the latter, from layer 5 of cortex, which it then relays to another cortical area. When a cortical area directly connects with another, it often has a parallel, transthalamic connection through these higher order relays. This leads to a novel appreciation of cortical functioning and raises many new questions.
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