Nucleus Reticularis Thalami nRt

nRt is a thin sheath of neurons on the entire lateral surface of the thalamus. It is a GABAergic inhibitory system that receives collateral projections from all thalamocor-tical axons passing through it. nRt provides a basis for adaptive gating and selective inhibition and activation of the highly distributed cortical systems, acting as a central pacemaker for thalamic oscillations. It receives projections from the pontine choliner-gic nuclei and the midbrain portions of the reticular activating system, including the superior colliculus and cuneiform nucleus. Lesion correlates for nRt have not been well-established given that it is almost impossible for naturalistic lesions of the thalamus to be confined to nRt, but it presumably has a central role in attentional gating, and in underpinning mutual reciprocal inhibition of multiple cortical areas in the service of directed cognitive activity. Several theorists of thalamocortical function (Taylor, 1999; Scheibel, 1980; Baars and Newman, 1994) have jointly hypothesized that nRt functions as a "net" on which potential working memories and conscious content compete, proposing that material makes it into working memory by virtue of potentially widespread neurodynamic "alliances" established on its surface (in concert with activity in many other regions, particularly anterior and posterior heteromodal cortices and their thalamic counterparts). Cholinergic systems may play a role in the regulation of nRt, as it receives projections from the pontine cholinergic systems. One would predict from current models of nRt function that extensive damage to nRt, particularly on the right side of the cortex, could generate serious attentional disturbance and a delirium, as mechanisms for global thalamocortical selection and inhibition would be severely affected.

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