The Basal Ganglia

  • John C. Rothwell


At one time, the term ‘basal ganglia’ was used to describe all the large nuclear masses in the interior of the brain, including the thalamus. Gradually, its use has become restricted to five closely related nuclei: caudate, putamen, globus pallidus, subthalamic nucleus and sustantia nigra (Figure 10.1). The basal ganglia receive no direct sensory inputs and, like the cerebellum, send no direct motor output to spinal cord. However, there is no doubt that these structures are involved in the control of movement. All diseases of the basal ganglia in man have some disorder of movement as their primary symptom. These range from an excess of involuntary movements (for instance, chorea) to a poverty and slowness of voluntary movement (for instance, Parkinson’s disease). Important as their role may be, there is to date no agreement on the precise function or the mechanism of action of the basal ganglia (see articles in Massion, Paillard, Schultz et al., 1983).


Basal Ganglion Substantia Nigra Globus Pallidus Thalamic Nucleus Subthalamic Nucleus 
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References and Further Reading

Review Articles and Books

  1. Alexander, G.E., De Long, M.R. and Strick, P.L. (1986) `Parallel Organisation of Functionally Segregated Circuits Linking Basal Ganglia and Cortex’, Ann. Rev. Neurosci., 9, pp. 357–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Carpenter, M.B. (1981) `Anatomy of the Corpus Striatum and Brain Stem Integrating Systems’ in V.B. Brooks (ed.), Handbook of Physiology, sect.1, vol. II, part 2, Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore, pp. 947–95Google Scholar
  3. Ciba Foundation (1984) Functions of the Basal Ganglia, Ciba Foundation Symposium 107, Pitman, LondonGoogle Scholar
  4. De Long, M.R. and Georgopoulos, A.P. (1981) `Motor Functions of the Basal Ganglia’ in V.B. Brooks (ed.), Handbook of Physiology, sect.1, part 2, Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore, pp. 1017–61Google Scholar
  5. Kitai, S.T. (1981) ‘Electrophysiology of the Corpus Striatum and Brain Stem Integrating Systems’ in V.B. Brooks (ed.), Handbook of Physiology, sect. 1, vol. II, part 2, Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore, pp. 997–1015Google Scholar
  6. Marsden, C.D. (1982) `The Mysterious Motor Function of the Basal Ganglia: The Robert Wartenberg Lecture’, Neurology, 32, pp. 514–39Google Scholar
  7. Massion, J., Paillard, J., Schultz, W., et al (eds.) (1983) `Neural Coding of Motor Performance’, Experimental Brain Research Supplement 7,Springer-Verlag, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  8. Stein, R.B. and Lee, R.G. (1981) `Tremor and Clonus’ in V.B. Brooks (ed.), Handbook of Physiology, sect.1, vol. II, part 2, Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore, pp. 325–43Google Scholar
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Original Papers

  1. Alexander, G.E. and De Long, M.R. (1985) `Microstimulation of the Primate Neostriatum. Parts I and II’, J. Neurophysiol., 53, pp. 1401–30Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, M.E. and Horak, F.B. (1985) `Influence of the Globus Pallidus on Arm Movement in Monkeys. Parts I, II and III’, J. Neurophysiol., 52, pp. 290–304, pp. 305–22; 54, pp. 433–48Google Scholar
  3. Berardelli, A., Sabra, A.F. and Hallett, M. (1983) `Physiological Mechanisms of rigidity in Parkinson’s Disease’, J. Neurol. Neurosurg. Psychiat., 46, pp. 45–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Crossman, A.R., Sambrook, M.A. and Jackson, A. (1984) `Experimental Hemichorea/Hemiballismus in the Monkey: Studies on the Intracerebral Site of Action in a Drug-induced Dyskinesia’, Brain, 107, pp. 579–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Crutcher, M.D. and De Long, M.R. (1984) `Single Cell Studies of the Primate Putamen. Parts I and II’, Exp. Brain. Res., 53, pp. 233–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. De Long, M.R., Crutcher, M.D. and Georgopoulos, A.P. (1985) `Primate Globus Pallidus and Subthalamic Nucleus: Functional Organisation’, J. Neurophysiol., 53, pp. 530–43Google Scholar
  7. De Long, M.R. and Georgopoulos, A.P. (1979) `Motor Function of the Basal Ganglia as Revealed by Studies of Single Cell Activity in the Behaving Primate’, Adv. Neurol., 24, pp. 131–40Google Scholar
  8. De Long, M.R. Georgopoulos, A.P. and Crutcher, M.D. (1983) `Corticobasal Ganglia Relations and Coding of Motor Performance’ in J. Massion et al. (eds.), Experimental Brain Research Supplement 7, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, pp. 30–40Google Scholar
  9. Evarts, E.V., Teravainen, H. and Caine, D.B. (1981) `Reaction Time in Parkinson’s Disease’, Brain, 104, pp. 167–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  11. Hore, J. and Vilis, T. (1980) `Arm Movement Performance During Reversible Basal Ganglia Lesions in the Monkey’, Exp. Brain Res, 39, pp. 217–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Iansek, R. (1980) `The Effects of Reserpine on Motor Activity and Pallidal Discharge in Monkeys: Implications for the Genesis of Akinesia’, J. Physiol., 301, pp. 457–66Google Scholar
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  14. Liles, S.L. (1985) `Activity of Neurons in Putamen During Active and Passive Movements of Wrist’, J. Neurophysiol., 53, pp. 212–36Google Scholar
  15. Liles, S.L. and Updyke, B.V. (1985) `Projection of the Digit and Wrist Area of Precentral Gyms to the Putamen: Relation Between Topography and Physiological Properties of Neurones in the Putamen’, Brain, Res, 339, pp. 245–55Google Scholar
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  17. Rothwell, J.C., Obeso, J.A., Day, B.L., et al (1983) `Pathophysiology of Dystonias’ in J.E. Desmedt (ed.), Advances in Neurology, vol. 39, Raven Press, New York, pp. 851–63Google Scholar
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  20. Tatton, W.G., Eastman, M.J., Bedingham, W., et al (1984) `Defective Utilisation of Sensory Input as the Basis for Bradykinesia, Rigidity and Decreased Movement Repertoire in Parkinsons’s Disease: A Hypothesis’, Can. J. Neurol. Sci., 11, pp. 136–43Google Scholar
  21. Traub, M.M., Rothwell, J.C., and Marsden, C.D. (1980) `Anticipatory Postural Reflexes in Parkinson’s Disease and Other Akinetic-rigid Syndromes and in Cerebellar Ataxia’, Brain, 103, pp. 393–412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Viallet, F., Trouche, E., Beaubaton, D., et al (1983) `Motor Impairment After Unilateral Electrolytic Lesions of the Substantia Nigra in Baboons: Behavioural Data with Quantitative and Kinematic Analysis of a Pointing Movement’, Brain Res, 279, pp. 193–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© John C. Rothwell 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • John C. Rothwell
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Neurology, Institute of PsychiatryUniversity of LondonUK

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