Neuronal properties of the human globus pallidus (GP) are not known. Since GP is the major output of the basal ganglia, it may be involved in the pathophysiology of Parkinson's disease. We studied 12 patients with medically resistant Parkinson's disease by using single cell recording of the GP during stereotaxic pallidotomy to define neuronal firing rate and its modulation during active and passive movements. Different frequency and pattern of single cell activity was found in globus pallidus externus compared with globus pallidus internus. Discharge rates of 19% of GP cells were modulated by passive contralateral movements. Pallidal units were most often related solely to single joint movement. Different patterns of activity in relation to the two different movements of the same joint were often observed. We identified somatotopically arranged cell clusters that alter discharge rate with related movements. These findings suggest at least a partial somatotopic organization of the human GP and similarity with experimental results in both healthy and MPTP monkeys, providing a rationale for surgical or pharmacological targeting of GP for treating Parkinson's disease.