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Neuron. 2019 Jan 16;101(2):321-336.e9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.11.023. Epub 2018 Dec 12.

Engagement of Pulvino-cortical Feedforward and Feedback Pathways in Cognitive Computations.

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Center for Neural Science, New York University, New York, NY 10003, USA.
Center for Neuroscience, Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Center for Neural Science, New York University, New York, NY 10003, USA; Shanghai Research Center for Brain Science and Brain-Inspired Intelligence, Shanghai 201210, China. Electronic address:


Computational modeling of brain mechanisms of cognition has largely focused on the cortex, but recent experiments have shown that higher-order nuclei of the thalamus participate in major cognitive functions and are implicated in psychiatric disorders. Here, we show that a pulvino-cortical circuit model, composed of the pulvinar and two cortical areas, captures several physiological and behavioral observations related to the macaque pulvinar. Effective connections between the two cortical areas are gated by the pulvinar, allowing the pulvinar to shift the operation regime of these areas during attentional processing and working memory and resolve conflict in decision making. Furthermore, cortico-pulvinar projections that engage the thalamic reticular nucleus enable the pulvinar to estimate decision confidence. Finally, feedforward and feedback pulvino-cortical pathways participate in frequency-dependent inter-areal interactions that modify the relative hierarchical positions of cortical areas. Overall, our model suggests that the pulvinar provides crucial contextual modulation to cortical computations associated with cognition.


attention; attractor dynamics; confidence; cortex; decision making; hierarchy; oscillations; pulvinar; thalamic reticular nucleus; working memory

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