General Features

The basal ganglia initiate and provide gross control over skeletal muscle movements. The major components of the basal ganglia include:

• Striatum, which consists of the caudate nucleus and the putamen

• External and internal segments of the globus pallidus

• Substantia nigra

• Subthalamic nucleus

Together with the cerebral cortex and die VL nucleus of the thalamus, these structures are interconnected to form two parallel but antagonistic circuits known as the direct and indirect basal ganglia pathways (Figures IV-9-1 and IV-9-2). Both pathways are driven by extensive inputs from large areas of cerebral cortex, and both project back to the motor cortex after a relay in the VL nucleus of the thalamus. Both pathways use a process known as "disinhibition" to mediate their effects, whereby one population of inhibitory neurons inhibits a second population of inhibitory neurons.

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