Paying attention to the thalamic reticular nucleus

Trends Neurosci. 1998 Jan;21(1):28-32. doi: 10.1016/s0166-2236(97)01157-0.


The thalamic reticular nucleus can be divided into a number of sectors, each concerned with a different function (sight, touch, hearing, movement or 'limbic' functions). Each sector is connected to more than one thalamic nucleus and to more than one cortical area, and each sector has topographically mapped connections with the thalamus and the cortex. We consider the known details of these connections and show: (1) that they are not the same for each sector; (2) that the reticular nucleus serves as a nexus, where several functionally related cortical areas and thalamic nuclei can interact, modifying thalamocortical transmission through the inhibitory connections that go from the reticular cells to thalamic relay cells; and (3) that we need much more detailed information about these highly organized connections before we can understand exactly how the thalamic reticular nucleus might be influencing thalamocortical pathways in attentional mechanisms or in other, as yet undefined, roles.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Reticular Formation / physiology*
  • Thalamic Nuclei / physiology*