We know how to recognize that the components of the Central Nervous System (CNS) and more specifically, of the brain, have large-scale activities and functions in our body, also recognizing that they are specific and essential for the proper development of our body.
In this sense, the basal ganglia are elements recognized as a set of gray nuclei that allow motor development.
They will be described in the following article together with their structures, disorders and functions to better facilitate the understanding of their importance.
What are the basal ganglia?
The basal ganglia is, in the words of Dr. C. George Boeree , “ nuclear masses that are recognized as the pyramidal motor system and that are located on both sides of the thalamus in the cortex of the brain. They are in charge of regulating movement even though they do not connect directly with spinal neurons. (1)
Note: Its functionality is described as a circuit that begins in the cerebral cortex and ends in the thalamus , which allows the return to the cerebral cortex.
Basal ganglia structure
The basal ganglia are composed of certain elements that allow the unit to be designed and applied in its function.
These elements, also considered structures and being the main neurotransmitters for the fulfillment of their functions, will be mentioned and described below.
The caudate nucleus is an encephalic mass in the shape of the letter “C” and which is distributed as if it had a head, body and tail. It is responsible for sending information to the frontal lobe of the brain, in the form of alarms that allow us to take immediate action.
Note: Its extreme activation leads to OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and a failure that indicates hypoactivity, allows the appearance of disorders such as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) , PAP syndrome (Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis) and apathy.
The putamen is the nucleus considered to be one of the largest structures, and it rests just behind the caudate nucleus.
As we mentioned initially, the basal ganglia are in charge of motor activities and the putamen nucleus is the one that coordinates automatic movements such as driving: be it cars, bicycles, among others.
Note: It is important to mention that Tourette’s syndrome is believed to be related to some existing failure in the putamen.
The striatum is one that is composed of the two previously mentioned elements, that is, the caudate nucleus and the putamen nucleus. It is a nucleus located in the frontal hemispheres of the thalamus and controls not only movements, but also basic emotions and cognitive processes.
The globus pallidus , for its part, is the medial part that belongs to the lenticular globule, then formed by two nuclei called the external and internal globus pallidus.
Curious fact: Its name “pale” is due to the fibers through which it is traversed, which give it a lighter color.
The functionality of the internal and external globes are completely independent and is characterized by receiving information from the striatum and being responsible for sending it to the substantia nigra (brain area that contains neurons).
The subthalamic nucleus is in charge of receiving information and producing stimulation by neurons . It is related to Parkinson’s pathology and is located in a small part behind the thalamus.
It is in charge of motor functions belonging to the trunk and extremities, and small areas such as eye movement, emotions and some cognitive processes.
The substantia nigra , as previously mentioned, is the one that contains neurons. More specifically, those that are in charge of the neurotransmission of dopamine.
It has an important activity in motor and addictive processes , being located in the midbrain and being considered part of the brain stem . It influences auditory processes, as well as vision and alertness.
Functions of the basal ganglia
The basal ganglia fulfill a certain repertoire of functions , which are in charge of characterizing and allowing to define what these nuclei are. These functions will be mentioned and described below, to facilitate the understanding of these elements in our body.
Coordinate volunteer movement
The main function of the ganglia is muscle and motor mobilization , controlling those that are voluntary and suppressing those that are involuntary.
Important: This allows the brain to coordinate and execute the movements and activities carried out in a precise and balanced manner. (two)
Regulate motor skill learning
As we have been mentioned, the basal ganglia also fulfill certain types of cognitive functions, which allows the application of motor skills learning.
Important: In an investigation on the functional anatomical bases for motor learning , reference is made to the basal ganglia as those that determine the posture and the activation of the nuclei for the execution of movements based on specific objectives, which are learned and they are performed automatically over time. (3)
Control behavior automation
The connections it has with the organism and the orders to which it responds allow the basal ganglia to be those that are involved in carrying out habitual learned behaviors, such as automatic responses to certain stimuli and with a determined speed.
Control emotional behavior
Among the functions of the basal ganglia, one can mention the influence it has on emotional behavior due to the activity in a direct pathway to the ventral prefrontal cortex, which is closely related to the emotional reactions of individuals.
Participate in executive functions
In this functionality, the activity of processing, elaboration of mental strategies and the technique of confronting problems stand out . Even the capacity for verbal flow and planning of activities, reasoning and memory enters here.
Basal ganglia disorders
The excess or deficiency in the capacity of the basal ganglia and its elements, has the capacity to trigger disorders in the health of the individual , for which they will be described and mentioned below, thanks to which a recognition of their conditions will be allowed.
As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, the excess in basal ganglia would produce an imbalance that leads to control problems over movements , which would then trigger disorders such as Parkinson’s, problems with posture and verbal expression.
On the contrary, the deficiency of basal ganglia, although it also produces an imbalance in the organism, instead of presenting problems when controlling movements, leads to an inability to initiate, produce or sustain them .
Among this we can highlight a hysterical paralysis, muscular rigidity and transient disorders in movements.
- The basal ganglia are made up of their main nuclei with quite specific functionalities that allow the development and proper motor development of our body.
- The basal ganglia in excess or deficit, present disorders and imbalances that lead to involuntary movements, inability to produce voluntary movements or sustain them in a stable period of time.
- Not only do they confer motor skills, but thanks to these ganglia also behavioral and emotional, allowing automatic responses to external stimuli.
University Professional in the area of Human Resources, Postgraduate in Occupational Health and Hygiene of the Work Environment, 14 years of experience in the area of health. Interested in topics of Psychology, Occupational Health, and General Medicine.