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Chapter 4: Basal Ganglia

James Knierim, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience, The Johns Hopkins University Last Rewatch 20 Oct 2020
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4.1 Introduction

The previous three chapters have actually described the anatomy and also function of the four levels of the motor system hierarchy: the spinal cord, the brainstem, the motor cortex, and also the association cortex. Two other brain frameworks can be considered as “side loops” in the motor pecking order. They affect the processing of motor control and also modulate the output of the descfinishing pathways without directly bring about motor output. Both of these structures—the basal ganglia and the cerebellum—are currently well-known to have various other functions in addition to modulating motor manage. Due to the fact that the the majority of obvious clinical indicators of damage to these areas are a wide array of motor impairments, they are still primarily thought about to be motor structures. Basal ganglia dysattribute reasons a collection of symptoms that are rather various from damage to descfinishing motor pathmethods, and also thus the basal ganglia were at once considered to form an “extrapyramidal motor system” that was distinctive from the pyramidal tract pathmethods. It is currently well-known that the basal ganglia do not originate a separate motor pathmeans. Instead, they influence and also modulate the activity of motor cortex and also the descending motor pathmeans in methods that reason unique symptoms once various basal ganglia structures are damaged.

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4.2 Gross Anatomy of the Basal Ganglia

The basal ganglia comprise a dispersed set of brain frameworks in the telencephalon, diencephalon, and also mesencephalon (Figure 4.1 and also Table 1). The forebrain structures incorporate the caudate nucleus, the putamen, the nucleus accumbens (or ventral striatum) and the globus pallidus. Together, these frameworks are called the corpus striatum. The cauday nucleus is a C-shaped framework that is closely connected via the lateral wall of the lateral ventricle. It is biggest at its anterior pole (the head), and its size diminishes posteriorly as it complies with the course of the lateral ventricle (the body) all the means to the tempdental lobe (the tail), wbelow it terminates at the amygdaloid nuclei. The putamen is likewise a big framework that is separated from the cauday nucleus by the anterior limb of the inner capsule. The putamales is connected to the cauday head by bridges of cells that cut throughout the internal capsule. Because of the striated appearance of these cell bridges (Figure 4.1B), the cauday and also putaguys are jointly referred to as the striatum or neostriatum, and the nucleus accumbens is frequently called the ventral striatum. Functionally, the caudate nucleus and also the putamales are taken into consideration indistinguishable to each other; indeed, most mammals have only a solitary nucleus referred to as the striatum. It is unclear whether tbelow is any kind of functional significance of the separation of the striatum right into the caudate and putamales in primates. The putamen and also the globus pallidus are jointly called the lenticular nucleus, or lentidevelop nucleus. The globus pallidus is split right into 2 segments: the internal (or medial) segment and the outside (or lateral) segment.


Figure 4.1 Basal ganglia frameworks. (A) Location of basal ganglia components in idealized brain area. (B) Cell bridges between the cauday and putaguys offer a striated appearance.


Table I Basal Ganglia Nomenclature

The subthalamic nucleus is component of the diencephalon; as its name means, it is located simply below the thalamus. The substantia nigra is a midbrain structure, written of 2 distinctive parts: the pars compacta and the pars reticulata. The substantia nigra is situated in between the red nucleus and also the crus cerebri (cerebral peduncle) on the ventral part of the midbrain. The pars compacta is the source of a clinically crucial dopaminergic pathmeans to the striatum; loss of neurons in this location is the reason of Parkinson’s illness (watch below). An area that is functionally analogous to the substantia nigra pars compacta is the ventral tegpsychological location, which is situated surrounding and provides a dopaminergic projection to the nucleus accumbens.

Historically, the amygdaloid facility and also the claustrum were taken into consideration components of the basal ganglia. However, modern usage typically restricts the term to those structures that cause the motor impairments characteristic of the extrapyramidal syndrome (caudate nucleus, putamen, globus pallidus, subthalamic nucleus, and substantia nigra).

4.3 Basal Ganglia Afferents


Figure 4.2 Figure 4.2 Basal ganglia afferents. For diagram simplicity, in this and also succeeding figures, the caudate and putamen are stood for by the putamales only, as the 2 areas have actually comparable relationships.


The striatum is the primary recipient of afferents to the basal ganglia (Figure 4.2). These excitatory afferental fees aincrease from the entire cerebral cortex and also from the intralaminar nuclei of the thalamus (primarily the centromedian nucleus and also parafascicularis nucleus). The projections from various cortical areas are segregated, such that the frontal lobe tasks mostly to the cauday head and also the putamen; the parietal and occipital lobes task to the cauday body; and also the tempdental lobe projects to the caudate tail. The main motor cortex and the main somatosensory cortex project greatly to the putaguys, whereas the premotor cortex and also supplementary motor areas project to the cauday head. Other cortical locations task mostly to the caudate. Therefore, along the C-shaped level of the cauday nucleus, the caudate cells get their input from the cortical areas that are cshed by. The enlarged head of the cauday reflects the big projection from the frontal cortex to the cauday. In addition, the nucleus accumbens (ventral striatum) receives a big input from limbic cortex.

In the motor areas of the basal ganglia, tbelow is a motor homunculus similar to that watched in the primary motor cortex. Hence, the projections from the medial wall of the anterior paramain lobule (the component of M1 that contains a representation of the legs and torso) innervate regions of the striatum that are next to the recipient areas from the dorsal surchallenge of the precentral gyrus (the component of M1 that contains a representation of the arms and hands). Similarly, the projections from the lateral surchallenge of the premain gyrus (the part of M1 that includes a representation of the face) innervate regions that are next to the arm and hand representation. This topography of projections is kept in the intrinsic circuitry of the basal ganglia.

4.4 Basal Ganglia Efferents

The major output frameworks of the basal ganglia are the globus pallidus internal segment (GPint) and also the substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNr) (Figure 4.3). Both of these structures make GABAergic, inhibitory relations on their targets. The GPint projects to a variety of thalamic structures by method of 2 fiber tracts: the ansa lenticularis and the lenticular fasciculus. The loop that procedures sensorimotor information from the motor cortex and the somatosensory cortex jobs to the ventral anterior (VA) and also ventral lateral (VL) nuclei. The loop that processes other neocortical information tasks to the dorsomedial nucleus (DM), intralaminar nuclei, and also components of the VA nucleus. The SNr jobs to the exceptional colliculus, which is involved in eye motions, and to the VA/VL thalamic nuclei.


4.5 Basal Ganglia Intrinsic Connections

A number of intrinsic pathmeans interconnect various basal ganglia frameworks (Figure 4.4).


The striatopallidal pathmeans is a GABAergic, inhibitory connection between the striatum and also both segments of the globus pallidus. The striatonigral pathway is a GABAergic, inhibitory connection in between the striatum and the SNr. The globus pallidus exterior segment renders a GABAergic, inhibitory link to the subthalamic nucleus. The subthalamic nucleus makes glutamatergic, excitatory relations onto both segments of the globus pallidus and the SNr. This pathway is the just pucount excitatory pathmethod among the intrinsic pathmethods of the basal ganglia. The nigrostriatal pathway provides a dopaminergic synapse onto striatal neurons. As we will see below, this is a blended pathmeans, via excitatory impacts on some striatal neurons and inhibitory impacts on others.

Two pathways procedure signals in the basal ganglia

There are two distinct pathways that procedure signals via the basal ganglia: the straight pathmethod and also the instraight pathmethod. These two pathmeans have oppowebsite net effects on thalamic targain frameworks. Excitation of the direct pathmethod has actually the net impact of exciting thalamic neurons (which in turn make excitatory connections onto cortical neurons). Excitation of the instraight pathway has actually the net effect of inhibiting thalamic neurons (rendering them unable to expoint out motor cortex neurons). The normal functioning of the basal ganglia apparently entails a proper balance in between the activity of these 2 pathmethods. One hypothesis is that the straight pathway selectively facilitates particular motor (or cognitive) programs in the cerebral cortex that are adaptive for the current job, whereas the indirect pathway simultaneously inhibits the execution of competing motor programs. An upset of the balance between the direct and instraight pathways outcomes in the motor dysattributes that characterize the extrapyramidal syndrome (see below).

Direct pathway. Although the connectivity fads of the direct and also instraight pathmethods are relatively straightforward, the presupremacy of inhibitory relations in the mechanism deserve to make an expertise of the functional circuitry complicated and also non-intuitive (Figure 4.5).


Figure 4.5 Direct/indirect pathmethods. Solid lines represent direct pathmeans and also daburned lines represent instraight pathmethod. (The output from GPi is prevalent to both pathmeans.) Green lines reexisting excitatory connections and red lines reexisting inhibitory connections. Click on individual pathmethod names to view each pathway in isolation.


The straight pathway starts with cells in the striatum that make inhibitory connections via cells in the GPint. The GPint cells subsequently make inhibitory relationships on cells in the thalamus. Therefore, the firing of GPint neurons inhibits the thalamus, making the thalamus much less most likely to expoint out the neocortex. When the straight pathway striatal neurons fire, however, they inhibit the activity of the GPint neurons. This inhibition releases the thalamic neurons from inhibition (i.e., it disinhibits the thalamic neurons), allowing them to fire to exmention the cortex. Hence, because of the “double negative” in the pathway between the striatum and also GPint and also the GPint and thalamus, the net outcome of exciting the direct pathmethod striatal neurons is to excite motor cortex. Think of it as a multiplication equation, with an excitatory link (E) equal to +1 and an inhibitory link (I) equal to –1:

Since the two negative numbers cancel each other out.

Instraight pathway. The indirect pathway starts through a various set of cells in the striatum. These neurons make inhibitory relationships to the outside segment of the globus pallidus (GPext). The GPext neurons make inhibitory relationships to cells in the subthalamic nucleus, which in turn make excitatory connections to cells in the GPint. (Remember that the subthalamic-GPint pathmeans is the only pudepend excitatory pathmeans within the intrinsic basal ganglia circuiattempt.) As we observed before, the GPint neurons make inhibitory relations on the thalamic neurons. To see the net impacts of activation of the instraight pathway, let us work-related backwards from the GPint. When the GPint cells are active, they inhibit thalamic neurons, hence making cortex much less energetic. When the subthalamic neurons are firing, they increase the firing rate of GPint neurons, for this reason increasing the net inhibition on cortex. Firing of the GPext neurons inhibits the subthalamic neurons, hence making the GPint neurons much less active and also disinhibiting the thalamus. However, once the indirect pathmeans striatal neurons are active, they inhilittle bit the GPext neurons, therefore disinhibiting the subthalamic neurons. With the subthalamic neurons totally free to fire, the GPint neurons inhilittle bit the thalamus, thereby producing a net inhibition on the motor cortex.

Again, think of a multiplication analogy:

Since tbelow are 3 negative numbers in the equation, the net effect is negative.

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Therefore, as an outcome of the complex sequences of excitation, inhibition, and disinhibition, the net result of the cortex amazing the direct pathway is to even more excite the cortex (positive feedback loop), whereas the net result of cortex amazing the instraight pathway is to inhilittle the cortex (negative feedago loop). Presumably, the function of the basal ganglia is related to a appropriate balance in between these 2 pathways. Motor cortex neurons have to expoint out the proper direct pathmethod neurons to additionally rise their own firing, and they have to excite the appropriate instraight pathways neurons that will certainly inhibit other motor cortex neurons that are not adaptive for the job at hand also (watch below).

The nigrostriatal projection

An vital pathmeans in the modulation of the direct and indirect pathmeans is the dopaminergic, nigrostriatal projection from the substantia nigra pars compacta to the striatum (Figure 4.5). Direct pathmethod striatal neurons have D1 dopamine receptors, which depolarize the cell in response to dopamine. In contrast, indirect pathmethod striatal neurons have D2 dopamine receptors, which hyperpolarize the cell in response to dopamine. The nigrostriatal pathmeans thus has actually the dual result of exciting the straight pathmethod while simultaneously inhibiting the instraight pathmethod. Therefore dual result, excitation of the nigrostriatal pathmeans has the net impact of exciting cortex by two courses, by interesting the direct pathmethod (which itself has a net excitatory impact on cortex) and inhibiting the instraight pathmethod (thereby disinhibiting the net inhibitory effect of the instraight pathmethod on cortex). The loss of these dopamine neurons in Parkinson’s disease causes the poverty of motion that characterizes this disease, as the balance between straight pathmeans excitation of cortex and instraight pathmeans inhibition of cortex is tipped in favor of the indirect pathmeans, with a subsequent pathological worldwide inhibition of motor cortex locations.

4.6 Functions of the Basal Ganglia

Motor functions

The attribute of the basal ganglia in motor manage is not taken in detail. It shows up that the basal ganglia is connected in the allowing of practiced motor acts and also in gating the initiation of voluntary activities by modulating motor programs stored in the motor cortex and elsewhere in the motor hierarchy (Figure 4.6). Thus, voluntary movements are not initiated in the basal ganglia (they are initiated in the cortex); yet, appropriate functioning of the basal ganglia shows up to be necessary in order for the motor cortex to relay the appropriate motor regulates to the lower levels of the hierarchy.