The Basal Ganglia and Movement

  • Marjorie E. Anderson


Early clinical reports, such as James Parkinson’s “An Essay on the Shaking Palsy” (Parkinson, 1817), gave vivid descriptions of the complex motor symptoms that now are associated with pathological changes in the basal ganglia, and it is primarily from the subsequent clinical literature that information has originated regarding possible roles of the basal ganglia in the coordination of movement. Degeneration of neurons in various nuclei of the basal ganglia has been found in the brains of individuals who had marked slowness or apparent absence of voluntary movement under certain conditions (bradykinesia or akinesia), but these same individuals also may have had an involuntary phasic activity of motor units that produced an incessant resting tremor. Other individuals with pathological changes in the basal ganglia exhibit the more dramatic involuntary movements of athetosis, chorea, or ballismus. As experimental studies were added to clinical-pathological correlations, a common theme appeared, and the basal ganglia were referred to as “centers for the automatic or subvoluntary integration of the various motor centers” (Ferrier, 1876), “supravestibular systems” (Muskens, 1922), “a group... concerned with posture other than the support of the body against gravity” (Martin, 1967). Denny-Brown (1962) even referred to the globus pallidus, from which many of the basal ganglia output fibers originate, as “the ‘head ganglion’ of the motor system of primates, forming the essential link between the environment and the reflex organization.”


Basal Ganglion Substantia Nigra Caudate Nucleus Brain Research Superior Colliculus 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marjorie E. Anderson
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Rehabilitation Medicine and Physiology and BiophysicsUniversity of Washington School of MedicineSeattleUSA

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