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Front Neural Circuits. 2016 Jan 12;9:86. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2015.00086. eCollection 2015.

Thalamic Circuit Diversity: Modulation of the Driver/Modulator Framework.

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Department of Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology, University of Louisville Louisville, KY, USA.


The idea that dorsal thalamic inputs can be divided into "drivers", which provide the primary excitatory drive for the relay of information to cortex, and "modulators", which alter the gain of signal transmission, has provided a valuable organizing principle for the study of thalamic function. This view further promoted the identification of "first order" and "higher order" thalamic nuclei, based on the origin of their driving inputs. Since the introduction of this influential terminology, a number of studies have revealed the existence of a wide variety of thalamic organizational schemes. For example, some thalamic nuclei are not innervated by typical driver inputs, but instead receive input from terminals which exhibit features distinct from those of either classic drivers or modulators. In addition, many thalamic nuclei contain unique combinations of convergent first order, higher order, and/or other "driver-like" inputs that do not conform with the driver/modulator framework. The assortment of synaptic arrangements identified in the thalamus are reviewed and discussed from the perspective that this organizational diversity can dramatically increase the computational capabilities of the thalamus, reflecting its essential roles in sensory, motor, and sensory-motor circuits.


corticothalamic; dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus; lateral posterior nucleus; pulvinar nucleus; retinogeniculate; tectothalamic; thalamocortical

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