Thalamic mechanisms in language: a reconsideration based on recent findings and concepts

Brain Lang. 2013 Jul;126(1):73-88. doi: 10.1016/j.bandl.2012.06.011. Epub 2012 Jul 23.


Recent literature on thalamic aphasia and thalamic activity during neuroimaging is selectively reviewed followed by a consideration of recent anatomic and physiological findings regarding thalamic structure and functions. It is concluded that four related corticothalamic and/or thalamocortical mechanisms impact language processing: (1) selective engagement of task-relevant cortical areas in a heightened state of responsiveness in part through the nucleus reticularis (NR), (2) passing information from one cortical area to another through corticothalamo-cortical mechanisms, (3) sharpening the focus on task-relevant information through corticothalamo-cortical feedback mechanisms, and (4) selection of one language unit over another in the expression of a concept, accomplished in concert with basal ganglia loops. The relationship and interaction of these mechanisms is discussed and integrated with thalamic aphasia and neuroimaging data into a theory of thalamic functions in language.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Speech / physiology*
  • Thalamus / anatomy & histology*
  • Thalamus / physiology*