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The claustrum is one of the most widely connected regions of the forebrain, yet its function has remained obscure, largely due to the experimentally challenging nature of targeting this small, thin, and elongated brain area. However, recent advances in molecular techniques have enabled the anatomy and physiology of the claustrum to be studied with the spatiotemporal and cell type-specific precision required to eventually converge on what this area does. Here we review early anatomical and electrophysiological results from cats and primates, as well as recent work in the rodent, identifying the connectivity, cell types, and physiological circuit mechanisms underlying the communication between the claustrum and the cortex. The emerging picture is one in which the rodent claustrum is closely tied to frontal/limbic regions and plays a role in processes, such as attention, that are associated with these areas. Expected final online publication date for the , Volume 43 is July 8, 2020. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.