Author(s): Schmahmann JD
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Abstract BACKGROUND: This article reviews the anatomy, connections, and functions of the thalamic nuclei, their vascular supply, and the clinical syndromes that result from thalamic infarction. SUMMARY OF REVIEW: Thalamic nuclei are composed of 5 major functional classes: reticular and intralaminar nuclei that subserve arousal and nociception; sensory nuclei in all major domains; effector nuclei concerned with motor function and aspects of language; associative nuclei that participate in high-level cognitive functions; and limbic nuclei concerned with mood and motivation. Vascular lesions destroy these nuclei in different combinations and produce sensorimotor and behavioral syndromes depending on which nuclei are involved. Tuberothalamic territory strokes produce impairments of arousal and orientation, learning and memory, personality, and executive function; superimposition of temporally unrelated information; and emotional facial paresis. Paramedian infarcts cause decreased arousal, particularly if the lesion is bilateral, and impaired learning and memory. Autobiographical memory impairment and executive failure result from lesions in either of these vascular territories. Language deficits result from left paramedian lesions and from left tuberothalamic lesions that include the ventrolateral nucleus. Right thalamic lesions in both these vascular territories produce visual-spatial deficits, including hemispatial neglect. Inferolateral territory strokes produce contralateral hemisensory loss, hemiparesis and hemiataxia, and pain syndromes that are more common after right thalamic lesions. Posterior choroidal lesions result in visual field deficits, variable sensory loss, weakness, dystonia, tremors, and occasionally amnesia and language impairment. CONCLUSIONS: These vascular syndromes reflect the reciprocal cerebral cortical-thalamic connections that have been interrupted and provide insights into the functional properties of the thalamus.
This article was published in Stroke
and referenced in Journal of Neurology & Neurophysiology