Anterior thalamic nuclei lesions and recovery of function: Relevance to cognitive thalamus

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2015 Jul;54:145-60. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.12.007. Epub 2015 Jan 29.


Injury to the anterior thalamic nuclei (ATN) and their neural connections is the most consistent neuropathology associated with diencephalic amnesia. ATN lesions in rats produce memory impairments that support a key role for this region within an extended hippocampal system of complex overlapping neural connections. Environmental enrichment is a therapeutic tool that produces substantial, although incomplete, recovery of memory function after ATN lesions, even after the lesion-induced deficit has become established. Similarly, the neurotrophic agent cerebrolysin, also counters the negative effects of ATN lesions. ATN lesions substantially reduce c-Fos expression and spine density in the retrosplenial cortex, and reduce spine density on CA1 neurons; only the latter is reversed by enrichment. We discuss the implications of this evidence for the cognitive thalamus, with a proposal that there are genuine interactions among different but allied thalamo-cortical systems that go beyond a simple summation of their separate effects.

Keywords: CA1; Cerebrolysin; Enrichment; Retrosplenial; Spines; Thalamic amnesia.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / administration & dosage
  • Animals
  • Anterior Thalamic Nuclei / drug effects
  • Anterior Thalamic Nuclei / pathology*
  • Anterior Thalamic Nuclei / physiopathology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Dendritic Spines / pathology
  • Environment
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Memory Disorders / etiology
  • Memory Disorders / pathology
  • Memory Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Memory Disorders / prevention & control
  • Neural Pathways
  • Neuroprotective Agents / administration & dosage
  • Rats
  • Recovery of Function
  • Spatial Memory / drug effects
  • Spatial Memory / physiology


  • Amino Acids
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • cerebrolysin