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What Is the Thalamus?

The thalamus is a major part of the limbic system in the brain. It is responsible for the emotions that we experience, and more specifically, signal relaying and prioritization. The thalamus is made up of twin bulb shaped, symmetrical regions, the thalami at the brain’s midline. The thalami each look like walnuts about 5.7 cm long. The thalamus is located centrally within the third ventricle of the brain, above the brain stem, between the cerebral cortex and midbrain and it functions in a superior way to the hypothalamus. Four arteries supply the thalamus with a blood supply.

Before passing on information to the cerebral cortex, the thalamus is the final relay station for sensory information, perceptual data, the regulation of motor control and most of the senses (auditory, visceral, gustatory, visual, somatic) but excludes the olfactory senses. The thalamus is involved in modulating arousal mechanisms, the levels of awareness, it allows you to maintain alertness and activity, it regulates consciousness and sleep, and gives notice to any sensory actions happening around the body. The thalamus both processes and relay sensory information. It distills sensory information into interpretable and manageable forms for the brain to use.

The thalamus is the nucleus of the nervous system as it gives an understanding of the importance and direction of the many and different neural signals that the brain receives. Though diverse in what it can process, recent research has shown that the thalamus is highly selective in its operations. Any damage to the thalamus leads to a permanent comatose state.

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