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Neural pathway identified that controls attention has implications for psychiatric disorders

The next time you are in a crowded room, or a meeting, or even at the park with your kids, take a look around. How many people are on their phone? invade every aspect of our lives. Status updates, text messages, email notifications all threaten to steal our attention away from the moment. While we fight the urge to check the phone, our brains are making constant judgment calls about where to focus attention. The brain must continually filter important information from irrelevant interference.

[Neural Gatekeeper in the Brain Controls Attention and Focus]
Laboratory scientists have identified neural connections between the cortex, thalamus, and TRN (TRN neurons shown in red, left and right panels) that help filter out distractions. Loss of a single protein in the TRN (shown here in green, middle and right panels) dramatically affects the function of the neural circuit and changes how mice focus.
Credit: Bo Li,


This work was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, the US National Institutes of Health, the Dana Foundation, NARSAD, the Louis Feil Trust, and the Stanley Family Foundation.

ErbB4 regulation of a thalamic reticular nucleus circuit for sensory selection” appears online in Nature Neuroscience on December 15, 2014. The authors are: Sandra Ahrens, Santiago Jaramillo, Kai Yu, Sanchari Ghosh, Ga-Ram Hwang, Raehum Paik, Cary Lai, Miao He, Z. Josh Huang, and Bo Li.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory