The thalamus part of the limbic system has a critical period for connections

This highly-jargoned 2015 UK study found that connections made by the thalamus part of the limbic system of the developing human fetus had a critical period of the last trimester of womb-life. Babies born before the 33rd week of gestation experienced thalamic disconnections compared with normal-term babies and adults. The disconnections increased with a shorter womb-life.

The thalamus of premature babies also developed stronger connections with areas of the face, lips, tongue, jaw, and throat. They presumably needed these connections for survival actions such as breathing and feeding that aren’t a part of the last trimester of womb-life.

The study confirmed that the structures of thalamic connections of normal-term babies were very similar to those of adults. The study added to the research that shows that human limbic systems and lower brains closely approximate their lifelong functionalities at the normal time of birth.


It was difficult to measure the thalamus at this stage of life with current technology, and the researchers had to discard over two-thirds of their results. The researchers recommended monitoring these premature babies for difficulties in later childhood that may be caused by their early-life experiences.

Why would this monitoring recommendation apply to just the study’s subjects? We know from other studies that a main purpose of thalamic connections is to actively control and gate information to and from the cerebrum. Would it make sense for a medical professional to disregard any patient’s birth history if they had problems in their brain’s gating functions or connectivity?


One researcher said:

“The ability of modern science to image the connections in the brain would have been inconceivable just a few years ago, but we are now able to observe brain development in babies as they grow, and this is likely to produce remarkable benefits for medicine.”

In my opinion, this study’s results provided evidence for a principle of Dr. Arthur Janov’s Primal Therapy: the bases for disconnection from aspects of oneself are often set down during gestation. It’s also my view that the “remarkable benefits for medicine” are more likely to be along the lines of what I describe in my Scientific evidence page.

http://www.pnas.org/content/112/20/6485.full “Specialization and integration of functional thalamocortical connectivity in the human infant”

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