The thalamus is a paired structure, located superior to the brainstem on the sides of the third ventricle (Figure 5.37B, C, and D). It is a collection of many nuclei. The thalamus is the principal relay point for sensory information that comes from the spinal cord, brainstem, cerebellum, and parts of the cerebrum. From here, the information is relayed to the sensory cortex. The thalamus does perceive some crude sen-sations of pain, temperature, and pressure (i.e., in the absence of the cerebral cortex, it is possible to per-ceive some crude sensations but the cerebral cortex is needed for proper perception).
The thalamus consists of four major groups of nu-clei. The anterior is connected to the limbic system and deals with emotions. Themedial nuclei provide a conscious awareness of emotional states. The ven-tral nuclei relay sensory information from the rest of the body to the cortex and also monitor communica-tion between the motor cortex and association areas. The posterior nuclei relay sensory information from the eye and ear to the cortex.
In addition to these functions, the thalamus is needed for acquisition of knowledge (cognition) and memory and for planning of movement.
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