Signal propagation via open-loop intrathalamic architectures: A computational model

Jeffrey W. Brown, Aynaz Taheri, Robert V. Kenyon, Tanya Y. Berger-Wolf, Daniel A. Llano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Propagation of signals across the cerebral cortex is a core component of many cognitive processes and is generally thought to be mediated by direct intracortical connectivity. The thalamus, by contrast, is considered to be devoid of internal connections and organized as a collection of parallel inputs to the cortex. Here, we provide evidence that “open-loop” intrathalamic pathways involving the thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN) can support propagation of oscillatory activity across the cortex. Recent studies support the existence of open-loop thalamo-reticulo-thalamic (TC-TRN-TC) synaptic motifs in addition to traditional closed-loop architec-tures. We hypothesized that open-loop structural modules, when connected in series, might underlie thalamic and, therefore cortical, signal propagation. Using a supercomputing platform to simulate thousands of permu-tations of a thalamocortical network based on physiological data collected in mice, rats, ferrets, and cats and in which select synapses were allowed to vary both by class and individually, we evaluated the relative capaci-ties of closed-loop and open-loop TC-TRN-TC synaptic configurations to support both propagation and oscil-lation. We observed that (1) signal propagation was best supported in networks possessing strong open-loop TC-TRN-TC connectivity; (2) intrareticular synapses were neither primary substrates of propagation nor oscilla-tion; and (3) heterogeneous synaptic networks supported more robust propagation of oscillation than their ho-mogeneous counterparts. These findings suggest that open-loop, heterogeneous intrathalamic architectures might complement direct intracortical connectivity to facilitate cortical signal propagation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberENEURO.0441-19.2020
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2020


  • Computational model
  • Cortical signaling
  • Intrathalamic signaling
  • Open-loop
  • Propagation
  • Thalamic reticular nucleus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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