What is the thalamus? 

The thalamus is a midline structure located directly on top of the brainstem, surrounding the third ventricle. It is thought to be primarily involved in relaying information from the brainstem and subcortex into the cortex, particularly sensation, special sense and motor signals. Every sensory system except olfaction utilises a thalamic relay to the associated cortical region. The thalamus has also been implicated in autonomic functions such as the regulation of consciousness, sleep and wakefulness. The thalamus may also have higher cognitive functions, being implicated in some emotional processing as well as memory propagation.

What is the evidence for thalamic alterations?


High quality evidence suggests bilateral reductions in grey matter in the thalamus of people with schizophrenia, which is of slightly larger magnitude in people with first-episode schizophrenia than in people with chronic schizophrenia.


Moderate quality evidence shows reduced activity in the left mediodorsal thalamus of people with schizophrenia during executive functioning tasks. During episodic retrieval, clusters of reduced activity in bilateral thalamus have been reported along with a cluster of increased activity in the right thalamus. There is increased activity in the right thalamus and decreased activity in the left thalamus of first-degree relatives of people with schizophrenia during executive functioning and working memory tasks.

Moderate to low quality evidence suggests decreased N-acetyl aspartate/creatine ratio in the thalamus of people with chronic schizophrenia, and increased glutamate/glutamine ratio in the thalamus of people with first-episode schizophrenia. Moderate to high quality evidence finds unmedicated people with schizophrenia have a medium-sized decrease in N-acetylaspartate in the thalamus. Moderate quality evidence suggests no differences in D2/D3 receptor availability between unmedicated people with schizophrenia and controls.

December 2019

Last updated at: 6:06 am, 17th December 2019
To view documentation related to this topic download the files below
Fact Sheet Technical Commentary

NeuRA Libraries

Title Colour Legend:
Green - Topic summary is available.
Orange - Topic summary is being compiled.
Red - Topic summary has no current systematic review available.