Limbic circuitry of the midline thalamus

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2015 Jul;54:89-107. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2015.01.014. Epub 2015 Jan 20.


The thalamus was subdivided into three major groups: sensorimotor nuclei (or principal/relay nuclei), limbic nuclei and nuclei bridging these two domains. Limbic nuclei of thalamus (or 'limbic thalamus') consist of the anterior nuclei, midline nuclei, medial division of the mediodorsal nucleus (MDm) and central medial nucleus (CM) of the intralaminar complex. The midline nuclei include the paraventricular (PV) and paratenial (PT) nuclei, dorsally, and the reuniens (RE) and rhomboid (RH) nuclei, ventrally. The 'limbic' thalamic nuclei predominantly connect with limbic-related structures and serve a direct role in limbic-associated functions. Regarding the midline nuclei, RE/RH mainly target limbic cortical structures, particularly the hippocampus and the medial prefrontal cortex. Accordingly, RE/RH participate in functions involving interactions of the HF and mPFC. By contrast, PV/PT mainly project to limbic subcortical structures, particularly the amygdala and nucleus accumbens, and hence are critically involved in affective behaviors such as stress/anxiety, feeding behavior, and drug seeking activities. The anatomical/functional characteristics of MDm and CM are very similar to those of the midline nuclei and hence the collection of nuclei extending dorsoventrally along the midline/paramidline of the thalamus constitute the core of the 'limbic thalamus'.

Keywords: Affect; Central medial nucleus; Cognition; Drug seeking activity; Feeding behavior; Learning and memory; Mediodorsal nucleus; Nucleus reuniens; Paratenial nucleus; Paraventricular nucleus; Rhomboid nucleus; Stress/anxiety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / cytology*
  • Limbic System / physiology
  • Midline Thalamic Nuclei / cytology*
  • Midline Thalamic Nuclei / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology