Consciousness and the thalamocortical loop
ABSTRACT Attempting to understand how the brain might be organized seems, for the first time, to be a serious topic of inquiry. One aspect of its neuronal organization that seems particularly central to global function is the rich thalamocortical interconnectivity and most particularly the reciprocal nature of the thalamocortical neuronal loop function. Moreover, the interaction between the specific and nonspecific thalamic loops suggests that rather than a gate into the brain, the thalamus represents a hub from which any site in the cortex can communicate with any other such site or sites. The goal of this paper is to explore the basic assumption that large-scale, temporal coincidence of specific and nonspecific thalamic activity generates the functional states that characterize human cognition.
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ABSTRACT: The capability of processing rapid fluctuations in the temporal envelope of sound declines with age and this contributes to older adults' difficulties in understanding speech. Although, changes in central auditory processing during aging have been proposed as cause for communication deficits, an open question remains which stage of processing is mostly affected by age related changes. We investigated auditory temporal resolution in young, middle-aged, and older listeners with neuromagnetic evoked responses to gap stimuli with different leading marker and gap durations. Signal components specific for processing the physical details of sound stimuli as well as the auditory objects as a whole were derived from the evoked activity and served as biological markers for temporal processing at different cortical levels. Early oscillatory 40-Hz responses were elicited by the onsets of leading and lagging markers and indicated central registration of the gap with similar amplitude in all three age groups. High-gamma responses were predominantly related to the duration of no-gap stimuli or to the duration of gaps when present, and decreased in amplitude and phase locking with increasing age. Correspondingly, low-frequency activity around 200 ms and later was reduced in middle aged and older participants. High-gamma band, and long-latency low-frequency responses were interpreted as reflecting higher order processes related to the grouping of sound items into auditory objects and updating of memory for these objects. The observed effects indicate that age-related changes in auditory acuity have more to do with higher-order brain functions than previously thought.PLoS ONE 01/2010; 5(4):e10101. · 4.09 Impact Factor