The Claustrum. Structural, Functional and Clinical Neuroscience

John Smythies, Lawrence Edelstein and Vilayanur Ramachandran, Editors:

The Claustrum. Structural, Functional and Clinical Neuroscience

San Diego (California,USA: Academic Press: 2014 (393 pages)

Reviewed by John Smythies





1.     History of the study and nomenclature of the claustrum.  J. I. Johnson and B. A.  Penske

2.     The Structure and Connections of the Claustrum. R. Druga

3.     The Neurochemical Organization of the Claustrum. J. S. Bazier

4.     Development and Evolution of the Claustrum. L. Puelles

5.     Physiology of the Claustrum. H. Sherk

6.     Neurocomputation and Coding in the Claustrum: Comparisons with the Pulvinar. K. Stiefel and A. O. Holcombe.

7.     Structural and Functional Connectivity of the Claustrum in the Human Brain. S. Pathak and J.C. Fernandez-Miranda.

8.     Delayed Development of the Claustrum in Autism. J. Wegiel, J. Morys, P. Kowianski, et al.

9.     The Claustrum is Schizophrenia. N. G. Cascella and A. Sawa.

10.  Clinical Relations: Epilepsy. M. E. Corcoran.

11.  The Claustrum and Alzheimer’s Disease A. Venneri and M. Shanks

12.  Parkinson’s Disease and the Claustrum. M. E. Kalaitzakis.

13.  Hypotheses relating to the Function of the Claustrum. J. R. Smythies, L. R. Edelstein and V. Ramachandran.

14.  What is it to be Conscious? D. Noble, R. Noble and J. Schwaber.

15.  Selected Key Areas for Future Research on the Claustrum. H. Okuno, J. R. Smythies and L. R. Edelstein.


EDITOR’S COMMENT: This is the first textbook devoted to the claustrum. Until recently this small, thin, handkerchief-like piece of grey matter buried deep between the insula and the external capsule was relatively ignored, owing in part to the technical difficulty of conducting experiments on it. Then a decade ago, Crick and Koch (2005) published their seminal paper suggesting that it had some function related to consciousness. They were impressed with the fact that it is the only part of the brain that has two-way connections with nearly every other part. They suggested that its function is to integrate information between centers (“binding”) and chose synchronization of gamma oscillations as the mechanism by which it did this—acting as the conductor of the orchestra as they put it. This hypothesis was extended by Smythies et al. (2013, 2014), who suggested that the claustrum essentially amplifies synchronized cortico-cortical gamma oscillations and provides a venue for competing nerve net populations to access the final common path to the motor cortex to initiate and maintain conscious behavior.

The Claustrum brings together leading experts on the claustrum from the varied disciplines of neuroscience. It provides a state-of-the-art presentation of what is currently known about the development, anatomy, physiology (including neurocomputation), and biochemistry of the claustrum. It describes what is known at present about the role of the claustrum in behavior and details promising lines of current and projected research. The book presents a unifying hypothesis about the mechanism by which the claustrum integrates sensory, emotional and cognitive information, and produces a final decision that results in conscious behavior. Also included are descriptions of the involvement of the claustrum with autism, schizophrenia, epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease.


Crick FC Koch C. What is the function of the claustrum? Phil.Trans.R. Soc. B. 2005; 360: 1271-9.

Smythies J, Edelstein L. Ramachandran V. Hypotheses relating to the function of the claustrum, Front. Integr. Neurosci, 2012; 6: 53. doi.103389/fnint.2012.00053.

Smythies J, Edelstein L. Ramachandran V. 2014. Chapter 13 in this volume


John Smythies

January 22, 2015