Long-term depression at distinct glutamatergic synapses in the basal ganglia

Rev Neurosci. 2014;25(6):741-54. doi: 10.1515/revneuro-2014-0024.


Long-term adaptations of synaptic transmission are believed to be the cellular basis of information storage in the brain. In particular, long-term depression of excitatory neurotransmission has been under intense investigation since convergent lines of evidence support a crucial role for this process in learning and memory. Within the basal ganglia, a network of subcortical nuclei forming a key part of the extrapyramidal motor system, plasticity at excitatory synapses is essential to the regulation of motor, cognitive, and reward functions. The striatum, the main gateway of the basal ganglia, receives convergent excitatory inputs from cortical areas and transmits information to the network output structures and is a major site of activity-dependent plasticity. Indeed, long-term depression at cortico-striatal synapses modulates the transfer of information to basal ganglia output structures and affects voluntary movement execution. Cortico-striatal plasticity is thus considered as a cellular substrate for adaptive motor control. Downstream in this network, the subthalamic nucleus and substantia nigra nuclei also receive glutamatergic innervation from the cortex and the subthalamic nucleus, respectively. Although these connections have been less investigated, recent studies have started to unravel the molecular mechanisms that contribute to adjustments in the strength of cortico-subthalamic and subthalamo-nigral transmissions, revealing that adaptations at these synapses governing the output of the network could also contribute to motor planning and execution. Here, we review our current understanding of long-term depression mechanisms at basal ganglia glutamatergic synapses and emphasize the common and unique plastic features observed at successive levels of the network in healthy and pathological conditions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology*
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Glutamic Acid / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Synaptic Depression / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology*
  • Synapses / physiology*


  • Glutamic Acid
  • Dopamine