AAAI Publications, The Twenty-Sixth International FLAIRS Conference

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Top-Down Executive Control Drives Reticular-Thalamic Inhibition and Relays Cortical Information in a Large-Scale Neurocognitive Model
Matthew E. Phillips, Michael C. Avery, Jeffrey L. Krichmar, Rajan Bhattacharyya

Last modified: 2013-05-19


The thalamus is a critical brain structure involved in gating and regulating the flow of sensory and cortical information. The reticular nucleus of the thalamus (TRN) sends inhibitory projections to the thalamic relay nuclei instead of projecting to the cortex as the other thalamic nuclei do. These inhibitory projections endow the TRN with the functionality to modulate and control cortical information flowing through the thalamus. Yet, the functional roles of the TRN and thalamus in high-level cognitive processing, such as spatial reasoning and decision-making, remains poorly understood. Neurocognitive models offer a framework to explore the high-level cognitive functions of the thalamus and TRN. Here, we investigate the functional roles of the thalamus and TRN in high-level cognitive tasks using a large-scale neurocognitive model called ICArUS-MINDS. Our results demonstrate distributed and parallel top-down executive control of semantic and spatial cortical information. Specifically, we observed reticular-thalamic inhibitory gating of spatial and semantic information through top-down task switching control during reasoning, decision making and recall. Thalamic-gating was critical for orchestrating processing sequences of task-dependent switches between cortical sources and targets. These results are an important first step in simulating and understanding the functional roles and behaviors of the thalamic brain system in high-level cognitive processing.

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