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Neuropsychologia. 2012 Aug;50(10):2477-91. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.06.019. Epub 2012 Jun 30.

Recall deficits in stroke patients with thalamic lesions covary with damage to the parvocellular mediodorsal nucleus of the thalamus.

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Department of Neuropsychology, Ruhr-University Bochum, Universitätstr. 150, D-44780 Bochum, Germany.


The functional role of the mediodorsal thalamic nucleus (MD) and its cortical network in memory processes is discussed controversially. While Aggleton and Brown (1999) suggested a role for recognition and not recall, Van der Werf et al. (2003) suggested that this nucleus is functionally related to executive function and strategic retrieval, based on its connections to the prefrontal cortices (PFC). The present study used a lesion approach including patients with focal thalamic lesions to examine the functions of the MD, the intralaminar nuclei and the midline nuclei in memory processing. A newly designed pair association task was used, which allowed the assessment of recognition and cued recall performance. Volume loss in thalamic nuclei was estimated as a predictor for alterations in memory performance. Patients performed poorer than healthy controls on recognition accuracy and cued recall. Furthermore, patients responded slower than controls specifically on recognition trials followed by successful cued recall of the paired associate. Reduced recall of picture pairs and increased response times during recognition followed by cued recall covaried with the volume loss in the parvocellular MD. This pattern suggests a role of this thalamic region in recall and thus recollection, which does not fit the framework proposed by Aggleton and Brown (1999). The functional specialization of the parvocellular MD accords with its connectivity to the dorsolateral PFC, highlighting the role of this thalamocortical network in explicit memory (Van der Werf et al., 2003).

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