Anatomy and Physiology of the Subthalamic Nucleus: A Driving Force of the Basal Ganglia

  • S. T. Kitai
  • H. Kita
Part of the Advances in Behavioral Biology book series (ABBI, volume 32)


The subthalamic (STh) nucleus is located between the zona incerta dorsally and the cerebral peduncle ventrally. The morphological features of STh neurons have been studied extensively at the light microscopic level (Rafols and Fox, 1976; Iwahori, 1978; Yelnik and Percheron, 1979; Hammond and Yelnik, 1983; Kita et al., 1983b; Afsharpour, 1985b) and the electron microscopic level (Rafols and Fox, 1976; Hassler et al., 1982; Chang et al., 1983). Although these studies have proposed different classification schemes for STh neurons, there is an almost complete concensus with regard to the somatic and dendritic morphology of the principal STh neurons in various species. STh neurons are stellate neurons with radiating and sparsely spined dendrites. Ultrastructure studies have demonstrated that the somata of STh neurons contain abundant organelles with nuclei that have deeply invaginated nuclear envelopes and pale nucleoplasm with little heterochromatin. In the neuropil, at least two types of axon terminals were identified. One type of terminal (Gray’s Type I) contained medium-sized round vesicles and formed asymmetrical synapses. The other type of terminal (Gray’s Type II) was large and contained both round and flattened vesicles and formed adherens junctions and symmetrical synapses.


Substantia Nigra Globus Pallidus Subthalamic Nucleus Cerebral Peduncle Zona Incerta 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. T. Kitai
    • 1
  • H. Kita
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Anatomy and NeurobiologyThe University of Tennessee, Memphis College of MedicineMemphisUSA

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