Anatomical evidence concerning the role of the thalamus in corticocortical communication: a brief review

J Anat. 1995 Dec;187 ( Pt 3)(Pt 3):583-92.


Two distinct types of thalamic nucleus are proposed on the basis of the afferent fibres that they receive from ascending pathways and from the cerebral cortex. 'First order nuclei' receive primary afferent fibres, definable on the basis of their origin and their intrathalamic synaptic relationships, from ascending pathways. These nuclei receive corticothalamic afferents from pyramidal cells in cortical layer 6, which also send branches to the thalamic reticular nucleus and appear to have a modulatory function. 'Higher order nuclei' receive most or all of their 'primary afferents' from pyramidal cells in cortical layer 5. These resemble the ascending primary afferents in the first order nuclei in terms of fine structure, synaptic relationships and in lacking a branch to the thalamic reticular nucleus. The higher order nuclei also receive modulatory afferents from layer 6. It is proposed that the higher-order nuclei are largely concerned with transmitting information about the output of one cortical area to another cortical area, and that they are likely to play a key role in corticocortical communication and higher cortical functions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Thalamus / anatomy & histology*
  • Thalamus / physiology