The hypothesis that nucleus reticularis thalami (RE) is the generator of spindle rhythmicity during electroencephalogram (EEG) synchronization was tested in acutely prepared cats. Unit discharges and focal waves were extracellularly recorded in the rostral pole of RE nucleus, which was completely disconnected by transections from all other thalamic nuclei. In some experiments, additional transections through corona radiata created a triangular island in which the rostral RE pole survived with the caudate nucleus, putamen, basal forebrain nuclei, prepyriform area, and the adjacent cortex. Similar results were obtained in two types of experiments: brain stem-transected preparations that exhibited spontaneous spindle sequences, and animals under ketamine anesthesia in which transient spindling was repeatedly precipitated during recording by very low doses of a short-acting barbiturate. Both spindle-related rhythms (7- to 16-Hz waves grouped in sequences that recur with a rhythm of 0.1-0.3 Hz) are seen in focal recordings of the deafferented RE nucleus. The presence of spindling rhythmicity in the disconnected RE nucleus contrasts with total absence of spindles in cortical EEG leads and in thalamic recordings behind the transection. Oscillations within the same frequency range as that of spontaneous spindles can be evoked in the deafferented RE nucleus by subcortical white matter stimulation. In deafferented RE cells, the burst structure consists of an initially biphasic acceleration-deceleration pattern, eventually leading to a long-lasting tonic tail. Quantitative group data show that the burst parameters of disconnected RE cells are very similar to those of RE neurons with intact connections. In the deafferented RE nucleus, spike bursts of RE neurons recur periodically (0.1-0.3 Hz) in close time-relation with simultaneously recorded focal spindle sequences. The burst occurrence of deafferented RE cells is greatly reduced after systemic administration of bicuculline. The preservation of both spindle-related rhythms in the disconnected RE nucleus, together with our recent experiments showing abolition of spindle oscillations in thalamic nuclei after lesions of RE nucleus (24), demonstrate that RE nucleus is the generator of spindle rhythms.