First measurements made of key brain links

December 4, 2012
An essential thalamocortical partnership

It’s not just the contact between the thalamus and prefrontal cortex that’s important; it’s the nature of those contacts at different layers of the cortex that allows the thalamus a measure of control. Scott Cruikshank and colleagues used optogenetic techniques to make their findings.

Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown University

Until now, brain scientists have been almost completely in the dark about how most of the nonspecific thalamus interacts with the prefrontal cortex, a relationship believed to be key in such fundamental functions as maintaining consciousness and mental arousal. Brown University researchers performed a set of experiments, described in the Journal of Neuroscience, to explore and measure those circuits for the first time.