The role of the substantia nigra in posture control

Eur J Neurosci. 2014 May;39(9):1465-73. doi: 10.1111/ejn.12540. Epub 2014 Mar 14.


Disorders implicating the basal ganglia are often characterized by postural deficits, but little is known about the role of the basal ganglia in posture control. Using wireless multi-electrode recording, we measured single unit activity from GABAergic and dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra as unrestrained mice stood on an elevated platform while introducing continuous postural disturbances in the roll plane. We found two major types of neurons - those activated by tilt to the left side of the body and suppressed by tilt to the right side, and others activated by tilt to the right side and suppressed by tilt to the left side. Contrary to the prevailing view that the basal ganglia output from the substantia nigra pars reticulata either inhibits or disinhibits downstream structures in an all or none fashion, we showed that it continuously sends anti-phase signals to their downstream targets. We also demonstrated for the first time that nigrostriatal dopaminergic transmission is modulated by postural disturbances.

Keywords: GABA; basal ganglia; dopamine; mouse; posture; substantia nigra.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / physiology*
  • GABAergic Neurons / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Substantia Nigra / physiology*