The Role of the Thalamus with FFI

The major clinical and diagnostic feature of this FFI is the progressive but ultimately severe neuronal loss within the brain especially in an area of the mid-brain known as the thalamus.

The thalamus is the area of the brain which among other roles, controls sleep and in particular the sleep-wake cycle, as well as circadian rhythms (known commonly as the ‘biological clock’) and pineal melatonin production (Jan et al. 2009). The areas of the thalamus that appear to control these functions are the ventral anterior (VA) and mediodorsal (MD) nuclei which unsurprisingly are the areas most affected in FFI.

Thus such destruction of tissue has a drastic impact on the patients ability to sleep and to control their sleep-wake cycle, but it also plays a part in their ability to function normally both physically and psychologically due to the disturbances in their circadian rhythms and melatonin production, thus in there is a plethora of additional symptoms associated with FFI and these are outlined here.

A pictorial image of the brain showing the areas affected by various different prion disorders. Note that FFI typically affects an area in the mid-brain known as the thlamus.

Picture Source:

The picture presented on this page was obtained from the following electronic source:

Reference: Role of the Thalamus with FFI

Jan, JE, Reiter, RJ, Wasdell, MB, Bax, M 2009, ‘The role of the thalamus in sleep, pineal melatonin production, and circadian rhythm sleep disorders’, Journal of Pineal Research, vol. 46, pp. 1-7, viewed 25 September 2009 from MEDLINE database.