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The Brain as a ToolA Neuroscientist's Account$
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Ray Guillery

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198806738

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198806738.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 12 April 2021

The mamillothalamic pathways: my first encounter with the thalamus

The mamillothalamic pathways: my first encounter with the thalamus

(p.83) Chapter 6 The mamillothalamic pathways: my first encounter with the thalamus
The Brain as a Tool

Ray Guillery

Oxford University Press

My thesis studies had stimulated an interest in the mamillothalamic pathways but also some puzzlement because we knew nothing about the nature of the messages passing along these pathways. Several laboratories were studying the thalamic relay of sensory pathways with great success during my post-doctoral years. Each sensory relay could be understood in terms of the appropriate sensory input, but we had no way of knowing the meaning of the mamillothalamic messages. I introduce these nuclei as an example of the many thalamic nuclei about whose input functions we still know little or nothing. Early clinical studies of mamillary lesions had suggested a role in memory formation, whereas evidence from cortical lesions suggested a role in emotional experiences. Studies of the smallest of the three nuclei forming these pathways then showed it to be concerned with sensing head direction, relevant but not sufficient for defining an animal’s position in space. More recent studies based on studies of cortical activity or cortical damage have provided a plethora of suggestions: as so often, the answers reported depend on the questions asked. That simple conclusion is relevant for all transthalamic pathways. The evidence introduced in Chapter 1, that thalamocortical messages have dual meanings, suggests that we need to rethink our questions. It may prove useful to look at the motor outputs of relevant cortical areas to get clues about some appropriate questions.

Keywords:   mamillothalamic circuit, mamillary bodies, anterior thalamic nuclei, anterodorsal nucleus, head direction cells, cortical functions

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