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WIREs Cogn Sci
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The basal ganglia

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Abstract Through its connections with widespread cortical areas and with dopaminergic midbrain areas, the basal ganglia are well situated to integrate patterns of cortical input with the dopaminergic reward signal originating in the midbrain. In this review, we consider the functions of the basal ganglia in relation to its gross and cellular anatomy, and discuss how these mechanisms subserve the thresholding and selection of motor and cognitive processes. We also discuss how the dopaminergic reward signal enables flexible task learning through modulation of striatal plasticity, and how reinforcement learning models have been used to account for various aspects of basal ganglia activity. Specifically, we will discuss the important role of the basal ganglia in instrumental learning, cognitive control, sequence learning, and categorization tasks. Finally, we will discuss the neurobiological and cognitive characteristics of Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease and addiction to illustrate the relationship between the basal ganglia and cognitive function. WIREs Cogn Sci 2013, 4:135–148. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1217 This article is categorized under: Neuroscience > Anatomy

A diagram of the four corticostriatal loops. Each loop projects from the cortex to the striatum to the output nuclei (second from bottom) and then to the thalamus. For simplicity, only primary cortical afferents are shown. SMA, supplementary motor area; GPi, internal segment of the globus pallidus; SNr, substantia nigra pars reticulata.

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Primary pathways through the basal ganglia. GPe, external portion of the globus pallidus; GPi, internal portion of the globus pallidus; SNc, substantia nigra pars compacta; STN, subthalamic nucleus; VTA, ventral tegmental area.

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The human basal ganglia and midbrain nuclei: red: caudate; green: putamen; purple: ventral striatum/nucleus accumbens; yellow: internal segment of the globus pallidus; orange: external segment of the globus pallidus; dark blue: subthalamic nucleus; light blue: substantia nigra.(Reprinted with permission from http://www.brains.rad.msu.edu, and http://brainmuseum.org, supported by the US National Science Foundation.)

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Four corticostriatal loops. Red: the orbitofrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate project to the ventral striatum in the motivational loop. Green: prefrontal and parietal cortices project to the head of the caudate in executive loop. Blue: the ventrolateral prefrontal and temporal cortices project to the body and tail of the caudate in the visual loop. Orange: the premotor, supplementary motor and somatosensory cortices project to the putamen in the motor loop.

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