Basal ganglia disorders are a heterogeneous group of clinical syndromes with a common anatomic locus within the basal ganglia. To account for the variety of clinical manifestations associated with insults to various parts of the basal ganglia we propose a model in which specific types of basal ganglia disorders are associated with changes in the function of subpopulations of striatal projection neurons. This model is based on a synthesis of experimental animal and post-mortem human anatomic and neurochemical data. Hyperkinetic disorders, which are characterized by an excess of abnormal movements, are postulated to result from the selective impairment of striatal neurons projecting to the lateral globus pallidus. Hypokinetic disorders, such as Parkinson's disease, are hypothesized to result from a complex series of changes in the activity of striatal projection neuron subpopulations resulting in an increase in basal ganglia output. This model suggests that the activity of subpopulations of striatal projection neurons is differentially regulated by striatal afferents and that different striatal projection neuron subpopulations may mediate different aspects of motor control.