Attentional orienting is impaired by unilateral lesions of the thalamic reticular nucleus in the rat

Verity Joy Brown, D Weese, JM Phillips

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112 Citations (Scopus)


The thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN) has been implicated in attentional processes based on its anatomical, electrophysiological, and neurochemical relationships with the sensory nuclei of the thalamus and corresponding sensory areas of cortex. This study examined the possibility that the TRN is involved in covert orienting of attention. Attention can be summoned to a spatial location in the absence of an overt orienting response. The reaction time to a visual target is faster when attention has been drawn to the location of the target by a preceding cue in that location (valid cue) compared with when the cue misdirects attention (invalid cue) away from the location of the subsequent target. This reaction time difference is referred to as the "validity effect." Rats were trained to perform such a reaction time task with visual cues and targets presented in poke holes to either side of the rat's head, which had to be maintained centrally and still. If the rat made an overt orienting response to the cue, the trial was aborted. Unilateral lesions were made by injection of ibotenic acid in the TRN. After surgery, there was no bias apparent in their responding; they were as likely to initiate responses and were equally accurate to either side. There was, however, a complete abolition of the validity effect for responses to contralateral targets. The data are discussed in terms of a role for the TRN in attentional processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10135-10139
Number of pages5
JournalThe Journal of Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 1999


  • attention
  • orienting
  • neglect
  • thalamic reticular nucleus
  • ibotenic acid
  • rat


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