The basal ganglia (or basal nuclei) are three areas under the cerebral cortex. They are part of the cerebrum (forebrain), and connected to the midbrain and the thalamus. They are vital to movement, and damage here results in damaged ability to move.
The three areas are:
- caudate nucleus
- pallidum (or globus pallidus)
The range of behaviours controlled by the nuclei is wide. It includes voluntary motor control, learning procedures for routine behaviors or "habits", and cognitive emotional functions. They control eye movement,
The basal ganglia also also control motivation. They select actions, that is, the choice of which behaviors to do at a given time. Experimental studies show that the basal ganglia inhibit (suppress) a number of motor systems. A release of this inhibition lets a motor system act. This "behavior switching" is influenced by signals from many parts of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex, which plays a key role in executive functions (doing things).
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