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J Neurophysiol. 2003 Feb;89(2):1067-77.

Dissociation of spatial-, object-, and sound-coding neurons in the mediodorsal nucleus of the primate thalamus.

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  • 1Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8001, USA.


The mediodorsal nucleus (MD) is the thalamic gateway to the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with spatial and object working memory functions. We have recorded single-neuron activities from the MD nucleus in monkeys trained to perform spatial tasks with peripheral visual stimuli and a nonspatial task with foveally presented pictures of objects and faces-tasks identical to those we have previously used to map regional specializations in the dorso- and ventro-lateral prefrontal cortex, respectively. We found that MD neurons exhibited categorical specificity-either responding selectively to locations in the spatial tasks or preferentially to specific representations of faces and objects in the nonspatial task. Spatially tuned neurons were located in parts of the MD connected with the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex while neurons responding to the identity of stimuli mainly occupied more ventral positions in the nucleus that has its connections with the inferior prefrontal convexity. Neuronal responses to auditory stimuli were also examined, and vocalization sensitive neurons were found in more posterior portions of the MD. We conclude that MD neurons are dissociable by their spatial and nonspatial coding properties in line with their cortical connections and that the principle of information segregation in cortico-cortical pathways extends to the "association" nuclei of the thalamus.

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