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Paperback | $36.00 Short | £24.95 | ISBN: 9780262513449 | 512 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 101 illus.| August 2009

Essential Info

Exploring the Thalamus and Its Role in Cortical Function, second edition


The thalamus plays a critical role in perceptual processing, but many questions remain about what thalamic activities contribute to sensory and motor functions. In this book, two pioneers in research on the thalamus examine the close two-way relationships between thalamus and cerebral cortex and look at the distinctive functions of the links between the thalamus and the rest of the brain. Countering the dominant "corticocentric" approach to understanding the cerebral cortex—which does not recognize that all neocortical areas receive important inputs from the thalamus and send outputs to lower motor centers—S. Murray Sherman and R. W. Guillery argue for a reappraisal of the way we think about the cortex and its interactions with the rest of the brain.

The book defines some of the functional categories critical to understanding thalamic functions, including the distinctions between drivers (pathways that carry messages to the cortex) and modulators (which can change the pattern of transmission) and between first-order and higher-order thalamic relays—the former receiving ascending drivers and the latter receiving cortical drivers. This second edition further develops these distinctions with expanded emphasis throughout the book on the role of the thalamus in cortical function. An important new chapter suggests a structural basis for linking perception and action, supplying supporting evidence for a link often overlooked in current views of perceptual processing.

About the Authors

S. Murray Sherman is Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurology, Neurobiology, Pharmacology, and Physiology at the University of Chicago.

R. W. Guillery is Emeritus Professor in the Department of Anatomy at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and at the University of Oxford and a fellow of University College London.


"The authors have a depth of knowledge and passion for their topic that shines through the pages... Their ideas should form the basis for the next leap in understanding what the thalamus is and why it exists."Catherine A. Leamey and Mriganka Sur, Neuron

"A scholarly study with great depth, touching not only its immediate subject but also addressing broad questions about the whole organization of the brain.... [I]t belongs on the shelves of all serious students of CNS."Richard Maslund, Trends in Neurosciences

"This volume serves as an excellent gateway into understanding the form and function of the thalamus as gatekeeper."Warren M. Grill, Quarterly Review of Biology


"Sherman and Guillery are both pioneers of research on the thalamus. Together they have come up with a work that I consider a paragon of its type. It is factual, informative, well documented, and thought provoking, and will be most useful to students and researchers alike."
Mike Gutnick, Professor of Neurobiology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

"It is simply magnificent... All the chapters are excellent."
Vernon B. Mountcastle

“This is a superb work. The first edition was terrific. The second extends it to drive home a deeply fundamental point about the organization of the brain. This book must be read by all serious students of the nervous system.”
Richard H. Masland, Professor of Neuroscience, Harvard Medical School

“The thalamus is the gateway to cortical information processing, and the second edition of this book is a magnificent postern to our understanding the way in which it works. In particular, it allows theoretical neuroscience to greatly enhance our insight into cortico-thalamic feedback.”
J. Leo van Hemmen, Department of Physics, Technical University of Munich