Conditional routing of information to the cortex: a model of the basal ganglia's role in cognitive coordination

Psychol Rev. 2010 Apr;117(2):541-74. doi: 10.1037/a0019077.


The basal ganglia play a central role in cognition and are involved in such general functions as action selection and reinforcement learning. Here, we present a model exploring the hypothesis that the basal ganglia implement a conditional information-routing system. The system directs the transmission of cortical signals between pairs of regions by manipulating separately the selection of sources and destinations of information transfers. We suggest that such a mechanism provides an account for several cognitive functions of the basal ganglia. The model also incorporates a possible mechanism by which subsequent transfers of information control the release of dopamine. This signal is used to produce novel stimulus-response associations by internalizing transferred cortical representations in the striatum. We discuss how the model is related to production systems and cognitive architectures. A series of simulations is presented to illustrate how the model can perform simple stimulus-response tasks, develop automatic behaviors, and provide an account of impairments in Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Automatism
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology*
  • Basal Ganglia / physiopathology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Psychological*
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / physiopathology
  • Learning
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology


  • Dopamine