Basal Ganglia - Primary Functions
Professor Trevor Robbins discusses the function of a set of structures called the basal ganglia, which seem to be involved in response selection.
The basal ganglia are a very mysterious set of structures. They comprise the striatum, which we commonly call the caudate nucleus and putamen, and also this set of structures also called the ventral striatum, including the nucleus accumbens and their outflow through the globus pallidus. I think it has been difficult to suss out [investigate] the basal ganglia because, in a sense, they're an entire brain in their own right, a bit like the cerebellum or the hippocampus itself. And they do tend to ape or mimic what the neocortex does, so the cortex projects in a very orderly way to the basal ganglia and one of the functions of the basal ganglia is to send streams of information off to the motor system for performance. Another main function is to reroute that information back, through loops, to the frontal cortex in particular. So, it is acting on this information and adding something to it. What is it adding? One possibility is it is adding motivational activational salience via the activity of the dopamine system, which projects to the striatum. We think that the striatum in general is very importantly involved in the elementary or first stages of selecting a response. The details of that selection are then filled in by the cortex. So, that is as far as we have got with the basal ganglia, but it's something we're going to continue to strive at.
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Professor Trevor Robbins explains that the dopamine system is a group of cells originating in the midbrain whose function may be to prepare the brain to think, move, and anticipate rewards.
Professor Trevor Robbins explains that the reward system, where dopamine mediates messages to the nucleus accumbens, is artificially activated by certain drugs.
The basal ganglia, a group of interconnected brain areas located deep in the cerebral cortex, have proved to be at work in learning, the formation of good and bad habits, and some psychiatric and addictive disorders.
Professor Trevor Robbins explains that drug addiction involves chemical and neural processes with dopamine and the nucleus accumbens particularly important.
Professor Trevor Robbins discusses two functions of the cholinergic (acetylcholine) system. One is involved in arousal and memory, the other in the sleep/waking cycle.
Professor Trevor Robbins describes the GABA (or GABAergic) system, whose main function in the brain is inhibition.
Professor Trevor Robbins describes the noradrenaline system, which is highly involved in arousal.
Doctor Larry Young discusses how vasopressin and oxytocin contribute to the reward system, which can promote behavior such as bonding and drug addiction.
The dopamine transporter gene (DAT1/SLC6A3) is a membrane-spanning protein that mediates the reuptake of dopamine from the synapse. It has been associated with bipolar disorder and ADHD.
Professor Trevor Robbins discusses how positron emission tomography (PET) works to provide detailed images of brain structure and chemistry.