Basal ganglia play a unique role in task switching within the frontal-subcortical circuits: evidence from patients with focal lesions

J Cogn Neurosci. 2008 Jun;20(6):1079-93. doi: 10.1162/jocn.2008.20077.


The performance of patients with lesions involving the basal ganglia (BG) was compared to that of patients with prefrontal (PFC) lesions, thalamic (TH) lesions, and age-matched controls in order to examine the specific role of the BG within the frontal-subcortical circuits (FSCC) in task switching. All the BG patients and none of the other participants showed a marked increase in error rate in incongruent trials where correct responses depended upon the choice of the correct task rule. Some BG patients erred in failing to switch tasks and others failed despite their attempt to switch tasks. Additionally, reaction time results indicate abnormal response repetition effects among the BG patients; failure in benefiting from advance task information among all the patients; and increased task mixing costs following PFC lesions. The authors conclude that although the frontal-subcortical circuits jointly determine some behaviors (such as benefiting from preparation), the BG play a unique role within the FSCC in action selection and/or the inhibition of irrelevant information.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / injuries*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / pathology
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / psychology
  • Cerebral Infarction / pathology
  • Cerebral Infarction / psychology
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / injuries*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Thalamus / injuries
  • Thalamus / physiology