Computational Investigations of Cognitive Impairment in Huntington's Disease
Huntington's Disease - Core Concepts and Current Advances
Huntington's Disease -Core Concepts and Current Advances 244 The basal ganglia The basal ganglia are a group of functionally related subcortical nuclei that have predominantly been described as being involved in movement control. In the last decades, it has been shown that the basal ganglia are involved in many cognitive domains, such as learning, memory, and planning. The functionality of the basal ganglia can be understood by the interconnections among the nuclei and the various
... ers used by the structures (for a recent update see, Delong & Wichmann, 2009) . Computational studies at various levels of biological realism have enhanced our understanding of the complex neurodynamics of the basal ganglia and its role in cognitive performance. Neuroanatomy of the basal ganglia The basal ganglia consist of the putamen, the caudate nucleus, the globus pallidus, the substantia nigra, and the subthalamic nucleus (see Fig. 1 ). The caudate nucleus and the putamen constitute the striatum (STR) and receive cortical input. The striatum projects to the globus pallidus and substantia nigra. The globus pallidus is divided into the internal (GPi) and external (GPe) segments. The substantia nigra also contains functionally separate parts: the pars compacta (SNc) and the reticulata (SNr). The GPi and the SNr project to nuclei in the thalamus and form the output of the basal ganglia. The thalamus is reciprocally connected with frontal cortical areas. This cascade of projections, i.e., cortex BG Thal cortex, is referred to as the cortico-basal ganglia loop of which there are several, each with its specific functional role. The loops are thought to implement a selection mechanism through which only the most appropriate actions (or thoughts) are selected (Doya, 2007) . Cortex Striatum GPi/SNr www.intechopen.com Computational Investigations of Cognitive Impairment in Huntington's Disease 245 to the subthalamic nucleus (STN), then to GPi/SNr and then to the thalamus. A third pathway called the hyperdirect pathway (Nambu, et al., 2000 (Nambu, et al., , 2002 involves direct projections from the neocortex to the STN, which then influences the activation in the GPi/SNr. The projections from the cortex to the striatum are topographically organized both in the anterior-posterior and in the lateral-medial directions (e.g., Nambu, 2011). This even extends to the level of specific body parts, such as the face, arm, and leg (Alexander & Crutcher, 1990) . Although this finding is consistent with a view that the various cortico-basal ganglia loops are separate parallel circuits, there is evidence showing that the loops share information (Graybiel, 1995) and that the amount of information sharing is modulated by dopamine (Bergman, et al., 1998) .