Background: There is an apparent contradiction between experimental data showing that the basal ganglia are involved in goal-oriented and routine behaviors and clinical observations. Lesion or disruption by deep brain stimulation of the globus pallidus interna has been used for various therapeutic purposes ranging from the improvement of dystonia to the treatment of Tourette's syndrome. None of these approaches has reported any severe impairment in goal-oriented or automatic movement.
Method: To solve this conundrum, we trained 2 monkeys to perform a variant of a 2-armed bandit-task (with different reward contingencies). In the latter we alternated blocks of trials with choices between familiar rewarded targets that elicit routine behavior and blocks with novel pairs of targets that require an intentional learning process.
Results: Bilateral inactivation of the globus pallidus interna, by injection of muscimol, prevents animals from learning new contingencies while performance remains intact, although slower for the familiar stimuli. We replicate in silico these data by adding lateral competition and Hebbian learning in the cortical layer of the theoretical model of the cortex-basal ganglia loop that provided the framework of our experimental approach.
Conclusion: The basal ganglia play a critical role in the deliberative process that underlies learning but are not necessary for the expression of routine movements. Our approach predicts that after pallidotomy or during stimulation, patients should have difficulty with complex decision-making processes or learning new goal-oriented behaviors. © 2016 Movement Disorder Society.
Keywords: DBS; behavioral task; decision making; habits; muscimol; pallidotomy; primates; reinforcement learning.
© 2016 International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.