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Time to put the mammillothalamic pathway into context

Dillingham, Christopher M., Milczarek, Michal M., Perry, James C. and Vann, Seralynne D. ORCID: 2021. Time to put the mammillothalamic pathway into context. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 121 , pp. 60-74. 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2020.11.031

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The medial diencephalon, in particular the mammillary bodies and anterior thalamic nuclei, has long been linked to memory and amnesia. The mammillary bodies provide a dense input into the anterior thalamic nuclei, via the mammillothalamic tract. Lesions of the mammillary bodies, mammillothalamic tract and anterior thalamic nuclei all produce severe impairments in temporal and contextual memory, in both animal models and in patients, yet it is uncertain why these regions are critical. Mounting evidence from electrophysiological and neural imaging studies suggests that mammillothalamic projections exercise considerable distal influence over thalamo-cortical and hippocampo-cortical interactions. Here, we outline how damage to the mammillary body-anterior thalamic axis, in both patients and animal models, disrupts behavioural performance on tasks that relate to contextual (“where”) and temporal (“when”) processing. Focusing on the medial mammillary nuclei as a possible ‘theta-generator’ (through their interconnections with the ventral tegmental nucleus of Gudden) we discuss how the mammillary body-anterior thalamic pathway may contribute to the mechanisms via which the hippocampus and neocortex encode representations of experience.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Additional Information: This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0149-7634
Funders: Wellcome Trust
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 8 December 2020
Date of Acceptance: 7 December 2020
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2022 09:45

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