Although nearly half of the synaptic input to neurons in the dorsal thalamus comes from the cerebral cortex, the role of corticothalamic projections in sensory processing remains elusive. Although sensory afferents certainly establish the basic receptive field properties of thalamic neurons, increasing evidence indicates that feedback from the cortex plays a crucial role in shaping thalamic responses. Here, we review recent work on the corticothalamic pathways associated with the visual, auditory, and somatosensory systems. Collectively, these studies demonstrate that sensory responses of thalamic neurons result from dynamic interactions between feedforward and feedback pathways.
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