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.
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