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Anticipatory activity in the human thalamus is predictive of reaction times

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Nikulin, V. V., Marzinzik, F., Wahl, M., Schneider, G.-H., Kupsch, A., Curio, G., et al. (2008). Anticipatory activity in the human thalamus is predictive of reaction times. Neuroscience, 155(4), 1275-1283. doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.07.005.

Responding to environmental stimuli in a fast manner is a fundamental behavioral capacity. The pace at which one responds is known to be predetermined by cortical areas, but it remains to be shown if subcortical structures also take part in defining motor swiftness. As the thalamus has previously been implicated in behavioral control, we tested if neuronal activity at this level could also predict the reaction time of upcoming movements. To this end we simultaneously recorded electrical brain activity from the scalp and the ventral intermediate nucleus (VIM) of the thalamus in patients undergoing thalamic deep brain stimulation. Based on trial-to-trial analysis of a Go/NoGo task, we demonstrate that both cortical and thalamic neuronal activity prior to the delivery of upcoming Go stimulus correlates with the reaction time. This result goes beyond the demonstration of thalamic activity being associated with but potentially staying invariant to motor performance. In contrast, it indicates that the latencies at which we respond to environmental stimuli are not exclusively related to cortical pre-movement states but are also correlated with anticipatory thalamic activity.