The primate basal ganglia: parallel and integrative networks

J Chem Neuroanat. 2003 Dec;26(4):317-30. doi: 10.1016/j.jchemneu.2003.10.003.


The basal ganglia and frontal cortex operate together to execute goal directed behaviors. This requires not only the execution of motor plans, but also the behaviors that lead to this execution, including emotions and motivation that drive behaviors, cognition that organizes and plans the general strategy, motor planning, and finally, the execution of that plan. The components of the frontal cortex that mediate these behaviors, are reflected in the organization, physiology, and connections between areas of frontal cortex and in their projections through basal ganglia circuits. This comprises a series of parallel pathways. However, this model does not address how information flows between circuits thereby developing new learned behaviors (or actions) from a combination of inputs from emotional, cognitive, and motor cortical areas. Recent anatomical evidence from primates demonstrates that the neuro-networks within basal ganglia pathways are in a position to move information across functional circuits. Two networks are: the striato-nigral-striatal network and the thalamo-cortical-thalamic network. Within each of these sets of connected structures, there are both reciprocal connections linking up regions associated with similar functions and non-reciprocal connections linking up regions that are associated with different cortical basal ganglia circuits. Each component of information (from limbic to motor outcome) sends both feedback connection, and also a feedforward connection, allowing the transfer of information. Information is channeled from limbic, to cognitive, to motor circuits. Action decision-making processes are thus influenced by motivation and cognitive inputs, allowing the animal to respond appropriate to environmental cues.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Ganglia / anatomy & histology*
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Primates / anatomy & histology*
  • Primates / physiology