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Thalamus: Definition, Functions & Location

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  • 0:01 Definition of the Thalamus
  • 0:25 Location of the Thalamus
  • 0:53 Functions of the Thalamus
  • 2:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Derrick Arrington

Derrick has taught biology and chemistry at both the high school and college level. He has a master's degree in science education.

The brain is a complex organ composed of many crucial parts. In this lesson, you will learn about the part of the brain known as the thalamus to gain an understanding of its structure and function.

Definition of the Thalamus

The brain is composed of many parts. They are defined by their locations, functions, and anatomy. The thalamus is a structure in the middle of the brain. It is located between the cerebral cortex and the midbrain. It works to correlate several important processes, including consciousness, sleep, and sensory interpretation.

Location of the Thalamus

The human brain on average weighs about three pounds. The top of the brain is divided into two hemispheres. The bottom of the brain is connected to the spinal cord by the brain stem. If you were able to split the brain directly down the center, you would find the thalamus sitting at the top of the brain stem. The thalamus is composed of two parts, often referred to as lobes. These lobes are symmetrical and are about the size of a walnut.

Thalamus
A scan of the brain.

Functions of the Thalamus

Have you ever called an organization and reached someone who is a switchboard operator? A switchboard operator is responsible for receiving information, interpreting the information, and making the proper connections to send and receive information. In the brain, the thalamus serves like a switchboard operator for the body. The thalamus is critical in relaying sensory information to the brain.

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