Evidence for spatially-responsive neurons in the rostral thalamus

Maciej M. Jankowski, Johannes Passecker, Nurul Islam, Seralynne Vann, Jonathan T. Erichsen, John P. Aggleton, Shane M. O’Mara*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Damage involving the anterior thalamic and adjacent rostral thalamic nuclei may result in a severe anterograde amnesia, similar to the amnesia resulting from damage to the hippocampal formation. Little is known, however, about the information represented in these nuclei. To redress this deficit, we recorded units in three rostral thalamic nuclei in freely-moving rats [the parataenial nucleus (PT), the anteromedial nucleus (AM) and nucleus reuniens NRe]. We found units in these nuclei possessing previously unsuspected spatial properties. The various cell types show clear similarities to place cells, head direction cells, and perimeter/border cells described in hippocampal and parahippocampal regions. Based on their connectivity, it had been predicted that the anterior thalamic nuclei process information with high spatial and temporal resolution while the midline nuclei have more diffuse roles in attention and arousal. Our current findings strongly support the first prediction but directly challenge or substantially moderate the second prediction. The rostral thalamic spatial cells described here may reflect direct hippocampal/parahippocampal inputs, a striking finding of itself, given the relative lack of place cells in other sites receiving direct hippocampal formation inputs. Alternatively, they may provide elemental thalamic spatial inputs to assist hippocampal spatial computations. Finally, they could represent a parallel spatial system in the brain.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number256
JournalFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue numberOCT
StatePublished - 13 Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Jankowski, Passecker, Islam, Vann, Erichsen, Aggleton and O’Mara.


  • Anteromedial nucleus
  • Border cells
  • Head direction cells
  • Nucleus reunions
  • Parataenial nucleus
  • Place cells
  • Rostral thalamus


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