The Thalamic Bridge to Cognition and Consciousness

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Lina Issa


From an evolutionary perspective, deeper brain structures are postulated as being more primitive than those that were developed later on. As such, the thalamus, being a deep brain structure, is generally believed to occupy one such primitive role: that of a ‘sensory relay station’. Recent evidence, however, suggests that the thalamus is in fact responsible for more complex and higher order functions involving cognition and consciousness, processes previously attributed solely to the cerebral cortex. This review examines several of these emerging theories through the lens neural pathways, with particular focus placed on how the complex circuitry of the thalamus allows for the intricate connectivity between itself, the cerebral cortex, and other subcortical structures.

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Author Biography

Lina Issa, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Lina graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2021 and is now a first-year medical student at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She was previously doing research in an auditory neuroscience lab at the Beckman Institute on campus and was awarded the 2021 Berkowitz Summer Fellowship for her work there. Lina was also published in Cells for her contributions in looking at age-related hearing loss and the distribution of serum lipidomic biomarkers as a means of predicting the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. Outside of academics, she is involved in social justice work and volunteers through various organizations to serve in underserved communities. She is very excited to share her passion for neuroscience through Brain Matters!