Limbic thalamus and state-dependent behavior: The paraventricular nucleus of the thalamic midline as a node in circadian timing and sleep/wake-regulatory networks

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2015 Jul;54:3-17. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.11.021. Epub 2014 Dec 3.


The paraventricular thalamic nucleus (PVT), the main component of the dorsal thalamic midline, receives multiple inputs from the brain stem and hypothalamus, and targets the medial prefrontal cortex, nucleus accumbens and amygdala. PVT has been implicated in several functions, especially adaptation to chronic stress, addiction behaviors and reward, mood, emotion. We here focus on the wiring and neuronal properties linking PVT with circadian timing and sleep/wake regulation, and their behavioral implications. PVT is interconnected with the master circadian pacemaker, the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus, receives direct and indirect photic input, is densely innervated by orexinergic neurons which play a key role in arousal and state transitions. Endowed with prominent wake-related Fos expression which is suppressed by sleep, and with intrinsic neuronal properties showing a diurnal oscillation unique in the thalamus, PVT could represent a station of interaction of thalamic and hypothalamic sleep/wake-regulatory mechanisms. PVT could thus play a strategic task by funneling into limbic and limbic-related targets circadian timing and state-dependent behavior information, tailoring it for cognitive performance and motivated behaviors.

Keywords: Circadian rhythms; Clock genes; Emotion; Fos; Hypocretin; Light; Mood; Orexin; Reward; Sleep; Stress; Suprachiasmatic nucleus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Clocks*
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / physiology
  • Midline Thalamic Nuclei / cytology
  • Midline Thalamic Nuclei / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Orexins / physiology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / metabolism
  • Sleep*
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus / physiology
  • Wakefulness*


  • Orexins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos