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
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.

Expert Contributor
Christianlly Cena

Christianlly has taught college physics and facilitated laboratory courses. He has a master's degree in Physics and is pursuing his doctorate study.

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.

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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Additional Activities

Thalamus Word Search Activity

This activity will help you assess your knowledge of the definition, functions, and location of the thalamus.


For this activity, print this page on a blank piece of paper. Search and highlight the word that will complete each of the given clues. Afterward, neatly write them on the appropriate blank space in the clues.


  1. A periodic state of rest and reduced consciousness is commonly referred to as _____ and is controlled by the thalamus.
  2. The brain stem, at the _____ of the brain, connects the cerebrum with the spinal cord.
  3. _____ is a term used to describe the symmetrical division of the thalamus which is the size of a walnut.
  4. Once an _____ is sent to the thalamus, it then relays information into a particular lobe of the brain.
  5. _____ to a portion of the thalamus often leads to sensory and movement disorders, including a high risk of coma.
  6. The primary auditory complex processes auditory information such as _____ picked up by the ear.
  7. Specifically, the thalamus is located at the _____ of the brain stem.
  8. The _____ is made up of many specialized areas that work together to control the nervous system.
  9. The thalamus plays a critical role in relaying _____ information to the brain.
  10. _____ is the grey matter within the midbrain that relays sensory impulses to the cerebral cortex.

Answer Key

  1. SLEEP
  3. LOBES
  6. SOUND
  7. TOP
  8. BRAIN

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