The specificity of thalamic alterations in Korsakoff's syndrome: Implications for the study of amnesia

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2021 Nov:130:292-300. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2021.07.037. Epub 2021 Aug 26.


The pathophysiological mechanisms behind amnesia are still unknown. Recent literature, through the study of patients with Alcohol Use Disorder with and without Korsakoff's syndrome, increasingly shows that physiological alterations to the thalamus have an important role in the development of amnesia. This review gives an overview of neuropsychological, neuropathological and neuroimaging contributions to the understanding of Korsakoff's syndrome, highlighting the central role of the thalamus in this amnesia. The thalamus being a multi-nucleus structure, the limitations regarding the loci, nature and alterations to specific nuclei are discussed, along with potential solutions. Finally, future directions for clinical research are laid out to unravel the intricacies inherent to amnesia. They consider the need to evaluate the physiological role of the thalamus, not only as an entity but also as part of a brain circuit through a more integrative approach.

Keywords: Amnesia; Anterior thalamic nuclei; Korsakoff’s syndrome; Mediodorsal nuclei; Memory; Neuroimaging; Segmentation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Amnestic Disorder*
  • Alcoholism*
  • Amnesia
  • Humans
  • Korsakoff Syndrome*
  • Thalamus