The thalamus, a crucial node in the well-described cortico-striatal-thalamo-cortical circuits, has been the focus of functional and structural imaging studies investigating human emotion, cognition and memory. Invasive work in animals and post-mortem investigations have revealed the rich cytoarchitectonics and functional specificity of the thalamus. Given current restrictions in the spatial resolution of non-invasive imaging modalities, there is, however, a translational gap between functional and structural information on these circuits in humans and animals as well as between histological and cellular evidence and their relationship to psychological functioning. With the advance of higher field strengths for MR approaches, better spatial resolution is now available promising to overcome this conceptual problem. We here review these two levels, which exist for both neuroscientific and clinical investigations, and then focus on current attempts to overcome conceptual boundaries of these observations with the help of ultra-high resolution imaging.
Keywords: functional brain networks; high-resolution imaging; thalamo-cortical circuits; thalamus; ultra high field fMRI.