Microcircuitry of the direct and indirect pathways of the basal ganglia

Neuroscience. 1998 Sep;86(2):353-87. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(98)00004-9.


Our understanding of the organization of the basal ganglia has advanced markedly over the last 10 years, mainly due to increased knowledge of their anatomical, neurochemical and physiological organization. These developments have led to a unifying model of the functional organization of the basal ganglia in both health and disease. The hypothesis is based on the so-called "direct" and "indirect" pathways of the flow of cortical information through the basal ganglia and has profoundly influenced the field of basal ganglia research, providing a framework for anatomical, physiological and clinical studies. The recent introduction of powerful techniques for the analysis of neuronal networks has led to further developments in our understanding of the basal ganglia. The objective of this commentary is to build upon the established model of the basal ganglia connectivity and review new anatomical findings that lead to the refinement of some aspects of the model. Four issues will be discussed. (1) The existence of several routes for the flow of cortical information along "indirect" pathways. (2) The synaptic convergence of information flowing through the "direct" and "indirect" pathways at the single-cell level in the basal ganglia output structures. (3) The convergence of functionally diverse information from the globus pallidus and the ventral pallidum at different levels of the basal ganglia. (4) The interconnections between the two divisions of the pallidal complex and the subthalamic nucleus and the characterization of the neuronal network underlying the indirect pathways. The findings summarized in this commentary confirm and elaborate the models of the direct and indirect pathways of information flow through the basal ganglia and provide a morphological framework for future studies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axonal Transport
  • Basal Ganglia / anatomy & histology
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology