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Thalamic Function - Beyond a Simple Relay

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889198429 Year: Pages: 231 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88919-842-9 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Neurology --- Science (General)
Added to DOAB on : 2016-01-19 14:05:46
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Abstract

The thalamus is often described as a relay. Typified by sensory pathways, this concept leads to thalamic nuclei being viewed as areas that passively streams information from a single source to the cortex, without affecting the nature of that information. However, diverse intrathalamic connections, the varying synaptic and membrane properties of thalamic neurons and the large number of inputs from non-sensory sources make the idea that the thalamus is just a passive relay unlikely. Furthermore, a large number of thalamic nuclei are not primarily driven by sensory signals nor do they exclusively target the cortex, meaning the thalamus must do more than simply pass sensory signals to the cortex. Finally, there is a wealth of research demonstrating that the thalamus does indeed function in ways that are not captured by the concept of a simple relay. So why, given all of this, is the primary paradigm for describing the thalamus, a relay? This Research Topic covers original research, reviews and hypotheses on thalamic function that explore the concept that the thalamus performs computational tasks other than simply passively relaying information.

The Cognitive Thalamus

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889195411 Year: Pages: 125 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88919-541-1 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Neurology --- Science (General)
Added to DOAB on : 2016-01-19 14:05:46
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Cognitive processing is commonly conceptualized as being restricted to the cerebral cortex. Accordingly, electrophysiology, neuroimaging and lesion studies involving human and animal subjects have almost exclusively focused on defining roles for cerebral cortical areas in cognition. Roles for the thalamus in cognition have been largely ignored despite the fact that the extensive connectivity between the thalamus and cerebral cortex gives rise to a closely coupled thalamo-cortical system. However, in recent years, growing interest in the thalamus as much more than a passive sensory structure, as well as methodological advances such as high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging of the thalamus and improved electrode targeting to subregions of thalamic nuclei using electrical stimulation and diffusion tensor imaging, have fostered research into thalamic contributions to cognition.Evidence suggests that behavioral context modulates processing in primary sensory, or first-order, thalamic nuclei (for example, the lateral geniculate and ventral posterior nuclei), allowing attentional filtering of incoming sensory information at an early stage of brain processing. Behavioral context appears to more strongly influence higher-order thalamic nuclei (for example, the pulvinar and mediodorsal nucleus), which receive major input from the cortex rather than the sensory periphery. Such higher-order thalamic nuclei have been shown to regulate information transmission in frontal and higher-order sensory cortex according to cognitive demands. This Research Topic aims to bring together neuroscientists who study different parts of the thalamus, particularly thalamic nuclei other than the primary sensory relays, and highlight the thalamic contributions to attention, memory, reward processing, decision-making, and language. By doing so, an emphasis is also placed on neural mechanisms common to many, if not all, of these cognitive operations, such as thalamo-cortical interactions and modulatory influences from sources in the brainstem and basal ganglia. The overall view that emerges is that the thalamus is a vital node in brain networks supporting cognition.

Building the gateway to consciousness - about the development of the thalamus

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889194704 Year: Pages: 107 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88919-470-4 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Neurology --- Science (General)
Added to DOAB on : 2016-03-10 08:14:32
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Since years, patterning and function of some brain parts such as the cortex in the forebrain and the optical tectum or cerebellum in the midbrain/hindbrain region are under strong investigation. Interestingly the diencephalon located in the caudal forebrain has been ignored for decades. Consequently, the existing knowledge from the development of this region to function in the mature brain is very fragmented. The central part of the diencephalon is the thalamus. This central relay station plays a crucial role in distributing incoming sensory information to appropriate regions of the cortex. The thalamus develops in the posterior part of the embryonic forebrain, where early cell fate decisions are controlled by local signaling centers. In this Research Topic we discuss recent achievements elucidating thalamic neurogenesis - from neural progenitor cells to highly specialized neurons with cortical target cells in great distance. In parallel, we highlight developmental aspects leading from the early thalamic anlage to the late the organization of the complex relay station of the brain.

Neuromodulation of Executive Circuits

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Book Series: Frontiers Research Topics ISSN: 16648714 ISBN: 9782889197071 Year: Pages: 257 DOI: 10.3389/978-2-88919-707-1 Language: English
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Subject: Neurology --- Science (General)
Added to DOAB on : 2016-04-07 11:22:02
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High-order executive tasks involve the interplay between frontal cortex and other cortical and subcortical brain regions. In particular, the frontal cortex, striatum and thalamus interact via parallel fronto-striatal "loops" that are crucial for the executive control of behavior. In all of these brain regions, neuromodulatory inputs (e.g. serotonergic, dopaminergic, cholinergic, adrenergic, and peptidergic afferents) regulate neuronal activity and synaptic transmission to optimize circuit performance for specific cognitive demands. Indeed, dysregulation of neuromodulatory input to fronto-striatal circuits is implicated in a number of neuropsychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, depression, and Parkinson's disease. However, despite decades of intense investigation, how neuromodulators influence the activity of fronto-striatal circuits to generate the precise activity patterns required for sophisticated cognitive tasks remains unknown. In part, this reflects the complexity of the cellular microcircuits in these brain regions (i.e. heterogeneity of neuron subtypes and connectivity), cell-type specific expression patterns for the numerous receptor subtypes mediating neuromodulatory signals, and the potential interaction of multiple signaling cascades in individual neurons. This Research Topic includes 10 original research articles and seven review articles addressing the role of neuromodulation in executive function at multiple levels of analysis, ranging from the activity of single voltage-dependent ion channels to computational models of network interactions in cortex-striatum-thalamus systems.

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