The thalamus participates in the regulation of the sleep-waking cycle. A clinico-pathological study in fatal familial thalamic degeneration

Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol. 1989 Aug;73(2):117-23. doi: 10.1016/0013-4694(89)90190-9.


Loss of slow-wave sleep (SWS) and abnormal REM sleep behaviour were associated with a lack of vegetative and endocrine circadian rhythms in a patient with fatal familial thalamic degeneration. Physiological EEG patterns of SWS (spindles, K complexes, delta activity) were absent. EEG fast rhythms could not be induced by barbiturate or benzodiazepine administration. RO 15-1788, a benzodiazepine antagonist, induced arousal and awakened the patient from coma. Pathological findings were severe neuronal loss restricted to the anterior and dorso-medial thalamic nuclei. The clinical and electrophysiological data, together with the pathological correlates, emphasize the role played by the thalamus in the regulation of the sleep-waking and other circadian cycles.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Thalamic Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Thalamus / pathology
  • Thalamus / physiology*
  • Thiopental / pharmacology


  • Thiopental