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Brain Lang. 2013 Jul;126(1):49-61. doi: 10.1016/j.bandl.2012.10.001. Epub 2012 Dec 1.

Frontal-thalamic circuits associated with language.

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Neural Systems Laboratory, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Thalamic nuclei associated with language including the ventral lateral, ventral anterior, intralaminar and mediodorsal form a hub that uniquely receives the output of the basal ganglia and cerebellum, and is connected with frontal (premotor and prefrontal) cortices through two parallel circuits: a thalamic pathway targets the middle frontal cortical layers focally, and the other innervates widely cortical layer 1, poised to recruit other cortices and thalamic nuclei for complex cognitive operations. Return frontal pathways to the thalamus originate from cortical layers 6 and 5. Information through this integrated thalamo-cortical system is gated by the inhibitory thalamic reticular nucleus and modulated by dopamine, representing a specialization in primates. The intricate dialogue of distinct thalamic nuclei with the basal ganglia, cerebellum, and specific dorsolateral prefrontal and premotor cortices associated with language, suggests synergistic roles in the complex but seemingly effortless sequential transformation of cognitive operations for speech production in humans.

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