The Functional Organization of the Mammalian Dorsal Thalamus

Anatomy of the Primate Ventral Lateral Complex
  • Chisato Asanuma
Part of the Contemporary Perspectives in Neurosurgery book series (COPENEU)


Sir Wilfrid Le Gros Clark, in his Arris and Gale lectures some 50 years ago, noted that “the thalamus is the anatomical equivalent of the very threshold of consciousness.”1 This dramatic statement very effectively draws attention to this centrally located, distinctive cell mass in the forebrain of all vertebrates within which all outside information (with few exceptions) first conspicuously pauses before being transmitted to its targets in the cerebral cortex or basal ganglia. At about the same time that Clark made that statement, a monograph on the thalamus was written by Walker.2 More recently, Jones3 has summarized our knowledge of the thalamus in a monograph several times the size of Walker’s, and the difference in the amount of information contained in the two books gives one a good indication of the tremendous research activity on the thalamus that has taken place during the intervening 50 years or so. Yet, in spite of all that has transpired, precisely what the thalamus does and how it does it remain elusive; while (as will be seen in later chapters in this book) the effects of destruction of portions of the thalamus and/or associated neural structures in humans can be blandly straightforward (as in blindness), they can, in other situations, be extraordinarily enigmatic (as in the thalamic pain syndrome, recovery from certain types of severe chronic pain, and memory deficits).


Retina Neurol Gall Choline Hunt 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chisato Asanuma
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Neurophysiology, National Institute of Mental HealthNIH Animal CenterPoolesvilleUSA

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