We develop a model of thalamocortical dynamics using a shared population of thalamic neurons to couple distant cortical regions. Behavior of the model is determined as a function of the connection strengths with shared and unshared populations in the thalamus, either within a relay nucleus or the reticular nucleus. When the coupling is via the reticular nucleus, we locate solutions of the model where distant cortical regions maintain the same activity level, and regions where one region maintains an elevated activity level, suppressing activity in the other.We locate and investigate a region where both types of solutions exist and are stable, yielding a mechanism for spontaneous changes in global activity patterns. Power spectra and coherence are computed, and marked differences in the coherence are found between the two kinds of modes. When, on the other hand, the coupling is via a shared relay nuclei, the features seen with the reticular coupling are absent. These considerations suggest a role for the reticular nucleus in modulating long distance cortical communication.