The basal forebrain corticopetal system revisited

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1999 Jun 29;877:339-67. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1999.tb09276.x.


The medial septum, diagonal bands, ventral pallidum, substantia innominata, globus pallidus, and internal capsule contain a heterogeneous population of neurons, including cholinergic and noncholinergic (mostly GABA containing), corticopetal projection neurons, and interneurons. This highly complex brain region, which constitutes a significant part of the basal forebrain has been implicated in attention, motivation, learning, as well as in a number of neuropsychiatric disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and schizophrenia. Part of the difficulty in understanding the functions of the basal forebrain, as well as the aberrant information-processing characteristics of these disease states lies in the fact that the organizational principles of this brain area remained largely elusive. On the basis of new anatomical data, it is proposed that a large part of the basal forebrain corticopetal system be organized into longitudinal bands. Considering the topographic organization of cortical afferents to different divisions of the prefrontal cortex and a similar topographic projection of these prefrontal areas to basal forebrain regions, it is suggested that several functionally segregated cortico-prefronto-basal forebrain-cortical circuits exist. It is envisaged that such specific "triangular" circuits could amplify selective attentional processing in posterior sensory cortical areas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Motivation
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology
  • Prosencephalon / physiology*
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology