Goal-directed and habitual control in the basal ganglia: implications for Parkinson's disease

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2010 Nov;11(11):760-72. doi: 10.1038/nrn2915. Epub 2010 Oct 14.


Progressive loss of the ascending dopaminergic projection in the basal ganglia is a fundamental pathological feature of Parkinson's disease. Studies in animals and humans have identified spatially segregated functional territories in the basal ganglia for the control of goal-directed and habitual actions. In patients with Parkinson's disease the loss of dopamine is predominantly in the posterior putamen, a region of the basal ganglia associated with the control of habitual behaviour. These patients may therefore be forced into a progressive reliance on the goal-directed mode of action control that is mediated by comparatively preserved processing in the rostromedial striatum. Thus, many of their behavioural difficulties may reflect a loss of normal automatic control owing to distorting output signals from habitual control circuits, which impede the expression of goal-directed action.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Ganglia* / pathology
  • Basal Ganglia* / physiology
  • Goals*
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Nerve Net / pathology
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / pathology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology*
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology