Hold your horses: a dynamic computational role for the subthalamic nucleus in decision making

Neural Netw. 2006 Oct;19(8):1120-36. doi: 10.1016/j.neunet.2006.03.006. Epub 2006 Sep 1.


The basal ganglia (BG) coordinate decision making processes by facilitating adaptive frontal motor commands while suppressing others. In previous work, neural network simulations accounted for response selection deficits associated with BG dopamine depletion in Parkinson's disease. Novel predictions from this model have been subsequently confirmed in Parkinson patients and in healthy participants under pharmacological challenge. Nevertheless, one clear limitation of that model is in its omission of the subthalamic nucleus (STN), a key BG structure that participates in both motor and cognitive processes. The present model incorporates the STN and shows that by modulating when a response is executed, the STN reduces premature responding and therefore has substantial effects on which response is ultimately selected, particularly when there are multiple competing responses. Increased cortical response conflict leads to dynamic adjustments in response thresholds via cortico-subthalamic-pallidal pathways. The model accurately captures the dynamics of activity in various BG areas during response selection. Simulated dopamine depletion results in emergent oscillatory activity in BG structures, which has been linked with Parkinson's tremor. Finally, the model accounts for the beneficial effects of STN lesions on these oscillations, but suggests that this benefit may come at the expense of impaired decision making.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology
  • Biological Clocks
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neural Networks, Computer*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Nonlinear Dynamics*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Subthalamic Nucleus / cytology
  • Subthalamic Nucleus / physiology*