Toward an agreement on terminology of nuclear and subnuclear divisions of the motor thalamus

J Neurosurg. 1997 Apr;86(4):670-85. doi: 10.3171/jns.1997.86.4.0670.


The nomenclature most commonly applied to the motor-related nuclei of the human thalamus differs substantially from that applied to the thalamus of other primates, from which most knowledge of input-output connections is derived. Knowledge of these connections in the human is a prerequisite for stereotactic neurosurgical approaches designed to alleviate movement disorders by the placement of lesions in specific nuclei. Transfer to humans of connectional information derived from experimental studies in nonhuman primates requires agreement about the equivalence of nuclei in the different species, and dialogue between experimentalists and neurosurgeons would be facilitated by the use of a common nomenclature. In this review, the authors compare the different nomenclatures and review the cyto- and chemoarchitecture of the nuclei in the anterolateral aspect of the ventral nuclear mass in humans and monkeys, suggest which nuclei are equivalent, and propose a common terminology. On this basis, it is possible to identify the nuclei of the human motor thalamus that transfer information from the substantia nigra, globus pallidus, cerebellum, and proprioceptive components of the medial lemniscus to prefrontal, premotor, motor, and somatosensory areas of the cerebral cortex. It also becomes possible to suggest the principal functional systems involved in stereotactically guided thalamotomies and the functional basis of the symptoms observed following ischemic lesions in different parts of the human thalamus.

Publication types

  • Corrected and Republished Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Animals
  • Cerebellum / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebellum / physiology
  • Efferent Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Globus Pallidus / anatomy & histology
  • Globus Pallidus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Macaca fascicularis / anatomy & histology
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Motor Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Motor Cortex / cytology
  • Substantia Nigra / anatomy & histology
  • Substantia Nigra / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Terminology as Topic*
  • Thalamic Nuclei / anatomy & histology*
  • Thalamic Nuclei / physiology
  • Thalamus / anatomy & histology*
  • Thalamus / pathology