papalagi (papalagi) wrote,

Encyclopedia of Psychology Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, Editor-in-Chief


Brain stem

Unlike the spinal cord, which receives some direct cortical connections but does not project back to the cortex, some brain stem structures also send projections to cortical regions. There are massive indirect connections from the brain stem, through the thalamus, to the cortical areas.

More recently, the cerebellum has been implicated in higher cognitive processes as well. (“Intact cerebellar function facilitates actions harmonious with the goal, appropriate to context, and judged accurately and reliably according to the strategies mapped out prior to and during behavior” Schmahmann, 1996.)

Incoming sensory signals, in addition to information content, may contribute to a tonic excitatory background important in brain excitability. (Thalamus)

The lateral geniculate nucleus, for example, receives input from the retina and is often thought to be a sensory relay in the visual pathway. Together, the cortical and brain stem inputs numerically outweigh those from the retina …

The thalamic architecture has been summarized as “crucial for shifting the functional mode of the brain in a continuous way between an adaptive behavioral state, open to the outside world, and a disconnected state when thalamic gates are closed” (Steriade et al., 1997, p. I).


This differential connectivity correlates with the involvement of the basal ganglia in the planning, timing, and execution of complex motor sequences-the higher-order aspects of motor control. Unlike the neocortex, the basal ganglia are associated with routines that have become automatic.

Tags: encyclopedia of psychology
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