The Laboratory for Basal Ganglia Research
Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience
Aidekman Research Center
The Basal Ganglia are a highly interconnected system of subcortical nuclei. Many years ago they were often referred to as "The extrapyramidal motor system." However, converging evidence from several different types of research make it clear that the basal ganglia are, in the strictest sense, neither extrapyramidal nor simply a motor system. Normal functions of the basal ganglia subsume cognition, emotion, learning and memory and sensorimotor integration, in addition to control of voluntary movement. Disorders of the basal ganglia include Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, schizophrenia and other dysfunctions of thought and emotion, as well as impairments of voluntary movement.
The research in our laboratory is aimed at understanding the functional circuitry of the basal ganglia at a systems-cellular level. Most of the work uses a combination of electrophysiological and neuroanatomical approaches including in vivo extracellular single unit recording, in vitro whole cell current and voltage clamp recording, intracellular staining with biocytin, neurobiotin and/or fluorescent dyes, transgenic mouse models that express reporter genes to enable the identification and/or recording of a number of different striatal and nigral cell types, genetic models of humans diseases, specific control of individual neurons or populations of neurons with optogenetic methods, immunocytochemistry, tract tracing, stereology and computer-assisted anatomical reconstruction of stained neurons.
Our research is supported by NIH-NINDS.
Most recently, we have been concentrating on the microcicuitry of the neostriatum. The neostriatum, most commonly refered to as simply the striatum, is the principal (although not only) input nucleus of the basal ganglia. Although most of the neurons in the striatum, 90-95% in rodents, are GABAergic projection neurons, there is a much smaller proportion of interneurons. One type uses acetylcholine as a neurotransmitter, and the others, comprising many distinct subypes, are GABAergic.