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Welcome to 2 minute neuroscience, where I simplistically explain neuroscience topics
in 2 minutes or less.
In this installment I will discuss the thalamus.
There is a thalamus in each cerebral hemisphere just above the brainstem.The thalamus is often
described as a relay station because a great deal of the information that proceeds to the
cerebral cortex first stops in the thalamus before being sent on to its destination.
The thalamus is subdivided into a number of nuclei that possess functional specializations
for dealing with particular types of information.
For example, all sensory information except olfaction travels directly from sensory receptors
to a nucleus in the thalamus specialized for dealing with that type of sensory data.
Then, the information is sent from the thalamus to the appropriate area of the cortex where
it is further processed.
As many as 50 distinct nuclei have been identified in the thalamus but I will discuss just a
few of the better known nuclei in this video.
Each of these nuclei has multiple functions; I will only mention one or two of the best-known
functions here.
At the anterior of the thalamus is a nucleus called the anterior nucleus.
It is extensively connected to the hippocampus and is thought to be involved in memory.
The dorsomedial nucleus is thought to be involved in emotional behavior and memory.
The ventral anterior nucleus and ventrolateral nucleus are thought to be involved in motor
functions.
The ventral posterolateral nucleus, or VPL, and the ventral posteromedial nucleus, or
VPM, both act as relay nuclei for sending somatosensory information to the somatosensory
cortex.
The lateral posterior nucleus is thought to be involved with integrating sensory input
and associating it with cognitive functions.
The pulvinar nucleus is a large nucleus that is involved in processing visual stimuli.
The medial geniculate nucleus and lateral geniculate nucleus serve as important relays
for auditory and visual information, respectively.
The reticular nucleus forms a sheet that makes up the outer covering of the thalamus; it
influences the activity of other nuclei within the thalamus.
There are also a number of nuclei not visible in this image, such as the centromedian nucleus,
which is thought to be involved in attention and arousal.