In addition to their well-known role in skeletal movements, the basal ganglia control saccadic eye movements (saccades) by means of their connection to the superior colliculus (SC). The SC receives convergent inputs from cerebral cortical areas and the basal ganglia. To make a saccade to an object purposefully, appropriate signals must be selected out of the cortical inputs, in which the basal ganglia play a crucial role. This is done by the sustained inhibitory input from the substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNr) to the SC. This inhibition can be removed by another inhibition from the caudate nucleus (CD) to the SNr, which results in a disinhibition of the SC. The basal ganglia have another mechanism, involving the external segment of the globus pallidus and the subthalamic nucleus, with which the SNr-SC inhibition can further be enhanced. The sensorimotor signals carried by the basal ganglia neurons are strongly modulated depending on the behavioral context, which reflects working memory, expectation, and attention. Expectation of reward is a critical determinant in that the saccade that has been rewarded is facilitated subsequently. The interaction between cortical and dopaminergic inputs to CD neurons may underlie the behavioral adaptation toward purposeful saccades.
Address for reprint requests and other correspondence: O. Hikosaka, Dept. of Physiology, Juntendo University, School of Medicine, 2–1-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113–8421, Japan (E-mail:).
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