Thalamic roles in eye movements

Masaki Tanaka and Jun Kunimatsu

in The Oxford Handbook of Eye Movements

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199539789
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Thalamic roles in eye movements

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience



The thalamus serves as the gateway to the cerebral cortex—all subcortical signals that ascend to the cortex are relayed by neurons in the thalamus. Different nuclei in the central thalamus receive inputs from the brainstem, the basal ganglia, and the cerebellum, and send outputs to the eye movement-related areas in the cortex, including the frontal eye field, the supplementary eye field, and the lateral prefrontal cortex. Consistent with the converging inputs, neurons in the central thalamus exhibit a variety of eye movement-related activities. Recent analyses of neural activity and eye movements in subjects with natural or experimentally-induced thalamic lesions suggest that signals in the central thalamus are essential for the online monitoring of self-motions and the generation of volitional saccades. In addition, the pathways through the central and the posterior thalamus appear to play a role in visuospatial attention that directly guides eye movements. We will describe recent findings and discuss the role for the thalamus in eye movements.

Keywords: thalamus; eye movements; self-generated movements; thalamic lesions; volitional saccades

Article.  13115 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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