Thalamic projections sustain prefrontal activity during working memory maintenance

Scott S. Bolkan, Joseph M. Stujenske, Sebastien Parnaudeau, Timothy J. Spellman, Caroline Rauffenbart, Atheir I. Abbas, Alexander Z. Harris, Joshua A. Gordon, Christoph Kellendonk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

256 Scopus citations


The mediodorsal thalamus (MD) shares reciprocal connectivity with the prefrontal cortex (PFC), and decreased MD-PFC connectivity is observed in schizophrenia patients. Patients also display cognitive deficits including impairments in working memory, but a mechanistic link between thalamo-prefrontal circuit function and working memory is missing. Using pathway-specific inhibition, we found directional interactions between mouse MD and medial PFC (mPFC), with MD-to-mPFC supporting working memory maintenance and mPFC-to-MD supporting subsequent choice. We further identify mPFC neurons that display elevated spiking during the delay, a feature that was absent on error trials and required MD inputs for sustained maintenance. Strikingly, delay-tuned neurons had minimal overlap with spatially tuned neurons, and each mPFC population exhibited mutually exclusive dependence on MD and hippocampal inputs. These findings indicate a role for MD in sustaining prefrontal activity during working memory maintenance. Consistent with this idea, we found that enhancing MD excitability was sufficient to enhance task performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)987-996
Number of pages10
JournalNature Neuroscience
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jun 27 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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