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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1984 Jul;81(14):4586-90.

Function of the thalamic reticular complex: the searchlight hypothesis.


It is suggested that in the brain the internal attentional searchlight, proposed by Treisman and others, is controlled by the reticular complex of the thalamus (including the closely related perigeniculate nucleus) and that the expression of the searchlight is the production of rapid bursts of firing in a subset of thalamic neurons. It is also suggested that the conjunctions produced by the attentional searchlight are mediated by rapidly modifiable synapses--here called Malsburg synapses--and especially by rapid bursts acting on them. The activation of Malsburg synapses is envisaged as producing transient cell assemblies, including "vertical" ones that temporarily unite neurons at different levels in the neural hierarchy.

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