Somatotopic organization is a fundamental and key concept to understand how the cortico-basal ganglia loop works. It is also indispensable knowledge to perform stereotaxic surgery for movement disorders. Here I would like to describe the somatotopic organization of the basal ganglia, which consist of the striatum, subthalamic nucleus, globus pallidus, and substantia nigra. Projections from motor cortical regions representing different body parts terminate in different regions of these nuclei. Basal ganglia neurons respond not only to the stimulation of the corresponding regions of the motor cortices, but also to active and passive movements of the corresponding body parts. On the basis of these anatomical and physiological findings, somatotopic organization can be identified in the motor territories of these nuclei in the basal ganglia. In addition, projections from functionally interrelated cortical areas partially converge through the cortico-basal ganglia loop, but nevertheless the somatotopy is still preserved. Disorganized somatotopy may explain, at least in part, the pathophysiology of movement disorders, such as Parkinson's disease and dystonia.
Keywords: globus pallidus; movement disorders; somatotopy; striatum; substantia nigra; subthalamic nucleus.