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W. Martin Usrey by a desk

$15 Million Grant Will Support Study on the Role of the Thalamus in Cognitive Control and Schizophrenia

New research suggests that this brain area focuses our attention – and might also be involved with schizophrenia

When it comes to brain anatomy, the thalamus occupies a humble position.  It sits at the top of our brainstem — an apparent vestige of our reptilian past  and is dwarfed by the massive, wrinkled cerebral cortex, which sits above it. The cortex is often credited as the throne of human intellect. But a team of researchers across the country, with UC Davis led by W. Martin Usrey, sees the thalamus as a critical coordinator of our thoughts and perceptions – and pivotal in human disease.

The cerebral cortex and the thalamus are partners,” says Usrey, who is a professor and chair in the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior. “Everything that the cerebral cortex does, the thalamus is involved.

In April, Usrey, along with a consortium of researchers at seven other universities, received a $15 million Conte Center grant from the National Institutes of Health to decipher the flow of information connecting the thalamus and cortex. This broad, interdisciplinary effort could have a transformative impact,” he says and shed light on cognitive control and the causes of schizophrenia.

Read the full article here.