Cholinergic and noradrenergic modulation of thalamocortical processing

Trends Neurosci. 1989 Jun;12(6):215-21. doi: 10.1016/0166-2236(89)90125-2.


During periods of drowsiness and synchronized sleep, thalamocortical neuronal activity is dominated by rhythmic oscillations. The shift to waking and attentiveness is associated with an abolition of these rhythms and a marked increase in neuronal responsiveness to synaptic inputs. These shifts in thalamocortical processing are controlled by ascending modulatory neurotransmitter systems of which the cholinergic and noradrenergic components play a key role. By altering the amplitude of specialized potassium currents in thalamic and cortical neurons, acetylcholine and norepinephrine can block the generation of thalamocortical rhythms and promote a state of excitability that is consistent with cognition.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic Fibers / metabolism
  • Adrenergic Fibers / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Cholinergic Fibers / metabolism
  • Cholinergic Fibers / physiology*
  • Thalamus / physiology*