Thalamocortical circuits: fMRI assessment of the pulvinar and medial dorsal nucleus in normal volunteers


This fMRI study investigates the activation of the thalamic nuclei in a spatial focusing-of-attention task previously shown to activate the pulvinar with FDG-PET and assesses the connectivity of the thalamic nuclei with cortical areas. Normal right-handed subjects (eight men, eight women, average age = 32 years) viewed four types of stimuli positioned to the right or left of the central fixation point (left hemifield-large letter, left hemifield-small letter display with flanking letters; right hemifield-large letter, right hemifield-small letter display with flankers). BOLD responses to small letters surrounded by flankers were compared with responses to large isolated letters. To examine maximum functional regional connectivity, we modeled “subject” as a random effect and attained fixed effect parameter estimates and t-statistics for functional connectivity between each of the thalamic nuclei (pulvinar, medial dorsal, and anterior) as the seed region and each non-seed voxel. Greater BOLD activation for letters surrounded by flankers than for large letters was observed in the pulvinar as anticipated and was also marked in the medial dorsal nucleus (MDN), anterior and superior cingulate (BA24 and BA24′), dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and frontal operculum and insula. For the MDN, maximal functional connectivity was with the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; correlations with left superior temporal, parietal, posterior frontal, and occipital regions were also observed. For the pulvinar, maximal functional connectivity was with parietal BA39; for anterior thalamus, with anterior cingulate. © 2006.

Neuroscience Letters