Disturbances of consciousness (DOC) are common in dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). Following previous findings of preserved temporal cortical high-affinity, nicotinic binding relating to DOC, we investigated this receptor in thalamus, an area of high nicotinic receptor concerning implicated in conciousness. 5-[I-125]-A-85380 binding, primarily ily reflecting the alpha 4 beta 2 subtype, was compared in 16 DLB patients with DOC and 6 without DOC, matched for duration and severity of dementia. Binding was higher in patients with DOC compared to patients without DOC in all thalamic nuclei examined, reaching significance in the reticular and ventral anterior thalamic nuclei. Comparing DLB patients with and without DOC to previously reported controls revealed similar binding levels in patients with DOC and lower binding in patients without DOC, reaching significance in the ventral anterior, indicating preserved nicotinic receptor density in DLB patients with DOC. These findings, together with previous neocortical data, implicate nicotinic modulation of thalamo-cortical circuitry as a key component in the control of conscious awareness in DLB. (c) 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.