Biological Cybernetics

, Volume 65, Issue 2, pp 135–145

On the computational architecture of the neocortex

I. The role of the thalamo-cortical loop
  • D. Mumford

DOI: 10.1007/BF00202389

Cite this article as:
Mumford, D. Biol. Cybern. (1991) 65: 135. doi:10.1007/BF00202389


This paper proposes that each area of the cortex carries on its calculations with the active participation of a nucleus in the thalamus with which it is reciprocally and topographically connected. Each cortical area is responsible for maintaining and updating the organism's knowledge of a specific aspect of the world, ranging from low level raw data to high level abstract representations, and involving interpreting stimuli and generating actions. In doing this, it will draw on multiple sources of expertise, learned from experience, creating multiple, often conflicting, hypotheses which are integrated by the action of the thalamic neurons and then sent back to the standard input layer of the cortex. Thus this nucleus plays the role of an ‘active blackboard’ on which the current best reconstruction of some aspect of the world is always displayed. Evidence for this theory is reviewed and experimental tests are proposed. A sequel to this paper will discuss the cortico-cortical loops and propose quite different computational roles for them.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. Mumford
    • 1
  1. 1.Mathematics DepartmentHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA