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Neuropsychologia. 2013 Jun;51(7):1336-49. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2013.03.012. Epub 2013 Apr 2.

A chronometric functional sub-network in the thalamo-cortical system regulates the flow of neural information necessary for conscious cognitive processes.

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Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center, CRECER, Seville, Spain.


The thalamo-cortical system has been defined as a neural network associated with consciousness. While there seems to be wide agreement that the thalamo-cortical system directly intervenes in vigilance and arousal, a divergence of opinion persists regarding its intervention in the control of other cognitive processes necessary for consciousness. In the present manuscript, we provide a review of recent scientific findings on the thalamo-cortical system and its role in the control and regulation of the flow of neural information necessary for conscious cognitive processes. We suggest that the axis formed by the medial prefrontal cortex and different thalamic nuclei (reticular nucleus, intralaminar nucleus, and midline nucleus), represents a core component for consciousness. This axis regulates different cerebral structures which allow basic cognitive processes like attention, arousal and memory to emerge. In order to produce a synchronized coherent response, neural communication between cerebral structures must have exact timing (chronometry). Thus, a chronometric functional sub-network within the thalamo-cortical system keeps us in an optimal and continuous functional state, allowing high-order cognitive processes, essential to awareness and qualia, to take place.

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