Thalamic mediodorsal nucleus and memory: a critical evaluation of studies in animals and man

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. Fall 1982;6(3):351-80. doi: 10.1016/0149-7634(82)90046-x.


Following a general description of the anatomical organization of the thalamic mediodorsal nucleus (MD) of animals and man, the involvement of this nucleus in the processing of memory related information has been evaluated by reviewing stimulation, electrophysiological, and lesion studies in animals, and by reviewing research on induced lesions, degenerative changes and vascular damage of MD in humans. Neither the results from animal experiments nor those from studies on humans provide clear-cut evidence for a specific, memory related role of MD. However, the findings here presented do support the theory that MD is one of several, possible memory related relay stations. While therapeutically induced and circumscribed lesions of MD rarely result in long-lasting memory deficits, pathological processes in MD are more likely to be followed by severe memory disturbances if one or more particular structures in addition to MD are included in the lesioned regions. Consequently, it is emphasized that only the disruption of more than one site along memory related pathways will result in severe and enduring memory deficits. To account for apparent inter-species differences in the involvement of MD in memory related processes, it has been argued that MD and its principal cortical target region might basically be involved in arousal and emotional processes, but that for primates and especially for man the phylogenetically young parvocellular sector of MD and its cortical projection region, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, are furthermore involved in memory functions, which are modulated by emotional factors via the rest of MD and the prefrontal cortex.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Alcohol Amnestic Disorder / physiopathology
  • Alcohol Amnestic Disorder / psychology
  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Retention, Psychology / physiology
  • Thalamic Nuclei / physiology*
  • Wernicke Encephalopathy / physiopathology
  • Wernicke Encephalopathy / psychology