Function of the Basal Ganglia in Mental Activity

  • Dominique Laplane
Part of the Advances in Behavioral Biology book series (ABBI, volume 41)


The hypothesis that the basal ganglia play a role in mental activity is not a new concept. The major epidemic of encephalitis lethargica (von Economo’s disease) during the 1920s provided many striking examples of mental disturbances. Those disturbances which, from this standpoint, made the greatest impression on investigators at that time were referred to as “bradyphrenia” (Naville, 1922), “abulia”, i.e. lack of initiative or drive that appeared to be similar to certain aspects of schizophrenia, hebephrenia and catatonia (Farran-Ridge, 1926), and manifestations of obsessive-compulsive disorder (Lewis, 1936). Implication of the basal ganglia had been widely proposed because of the predominance of lesions in subcortical structures. Unfortunately, this period of history was also marked by the expansion of psychoanalysis and misunderstanding between the two levels of the study (Jeliffe, 1929) cast a certain amount of discredit on this research. In addition, the basic sciences at that time could not provide the concepts necessary to integrate these ideas. Lastly, methods of investigation available were too rudimentary to obtain observations that would be convincing and flawless. Since the 1950s, Hassler has vigorously defended the role of the basal ganglia in mental activity and in the area of attention in particular (Hassler, 1980). His observations, especially involving behavioral patterns following lesions produced in laboratory animals by stereotaxis and in humans lacked sufficient precision from a psychological standpoint to be absolutely convincing, but his intuition however was excellent.


Basal Ganglion Frontal Lobe Vascular Dementia Mental Activity Globus Pallidus 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ali-Cherif, A., Royere, M.L., Gösset, A., Poncet, M., Salamon, G., and Khalil, R., 1984, Troubles du comportement et de l’activité mentale après intoxication oxycarbonée. Lésions pallidales bilatérales, Rev. Neurol.140:401–405.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Blumer, D., and Benson, D.F., 1975, Personality changes with frontal and temporal lobe lesions, in:“Psychiatric aspects of Neurologic disease, Vol. 1,” D.F. Benson and D. Blumer, eds., Grune and Stratton, New York, pp. 151 – 170.Google Scholar
  3. Bogousslavsky, J., Regli, F., Delaloye, B., Felaloye-Bischoff, A., Assai, G., and Uske, A., 1991, Loss of psychic self-activation with bithalamic infarction. Neurobehavioural, CT, MRI and SPECT correlates, Acta Neurol. Scand.83: 309 – 316.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cambier, J., Masson, M., Viader, F., Limosin, J., and Strube, A., 1985, Le syndrome frontal de la paralysie supra-nucléaire progressive, Rev. Neurol.141: 528 – 536.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Eslinger, P.J., and Damasio, A.R., 1985, Severe disturbance of higher cognition after bilateral frontal lobe ablation: Patient E.V.R., Neurology35: 1731 – 1741.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Farran-Ridge, C, 1926, Some symptoms referable to the basal ganglia occuring in dementia praecox and epidemic encephalitis, J. Mental Sci.72: 513 – 523.Google Scholar
  7. Gotham, A.M., Brown, R.G., and Marsden, CD., 1988, Frontal cognitive functions in patients with Parkinson disease on and off levodopa, Brain111: 239 – 321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Habib, M., and Poncet, M., 1988, Perte de l’élan vital, de l’intérêt et de l’affectivité (syndrome athymhormique) au cours de lésions lacunaires des corps striés, Rev. Neurol. 144: 571 – 577.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Hassler, R., 1980, Brain mechanisms of intention and attention with introductory remarks on other volitional processes, in:“Motivation, motor and sensory processes of the brain; electrical potentials, behavior and clinical use,” H.H. Kornhuber and L. Deecke, eds., Elsevier, Holland, pp. 584 – 614.Google Scholar
  10. Ishii, N, Nishiharay, Y., and Imamura, T., 1986, Why do frontal lobe symptoms predominate in vascular dementia with lacunes, Neurology36: 340 – 345.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Jeliffe, S.F., 1929, Psychologic components in postencephalitic oculogyric crises, Arch. Neurol. Psychiat.21: 491 – 532.Google Scholar
  12. Katz, D.L., Alexander, M.P., and Mandell, A.M., 1987, Dementia following strokes in the mesencephalon and diencephalon, Arch. Neurol.44: 1127 – 1133.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Laplane D, Widlocher D, Pillon B, Baulac M, and Binoux F 1981 Comportement compulsif d’allure obsessionnelle par necrose circonscrite bilaterale pallido-striatale. Encéphalopathie par piqûre de guêpe, Rev. Neurol.137: 269 – 276.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Laplane, D., Baulac, M., Pillon, B., and Panayatopoulos-Achimestos, J., 1982, Perte de l’auto-activation psychique. Activité compulsive d’allure obsessionnelle. Lésion lenticulaire bilatérale, Rev. Neurol.138: 137 - 141.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Laplane, D., Dubois, B., Pillon, B., and Baulac, M., 1988, Perte de l’auto-activation psychique et activité mentale stéréotypée par lésion frontale, Rev. Neurol.144: 564 - 570.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Laplane, D., Levasseur, M., Pillon, B., Dubois, B., Baulac, M., Mazoyer, B., Tran Dinh, S., Sette, G., Danze, F., and Baron, J.C., 1989, Obsessive-compulsive and other behavioural changes with bilateral basal ganglia lesions. A neuropsychological, magnetic resonance imaging and positron tomography study, Brain112: 699 - 725.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lapresle, J., and Fardeau, M., 1967, The central nervous system and carbon monoxide poisoning II. Anatomical study of brain lesions following intoxication with carbon monoxide (22 cases), Prog. Brain Res.24: 31 - 74.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lewis, A., 1936, Problems of obsessional illness, Proc. R. Soc. Med.29: 325 - 336.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Loeb, C, 1985, Vascular dementia, in: “Handbook of Clinical Neurology, Vol 2 ( 46 ) Neurobehavioural disorders,” J.A.M. Frederiks, ed., Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp. 353 - 369Google Scholar
  20. Luria, A.R., 1985, Two cases of motor perseveration in massive lesions of frontal lobes, Brain88: 1 - 10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Marsden, CD., 1982, The mysterious motor function of the basal ganglia: The Robert Wartenberg lecture, Neurology32: 514 - 539.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Naville, F., 1922, Etude sur les complications et les séquelles mentales de l’encéphalite épidémique, Encéphale2: 371 - 375.Google Scholar
  23. Percheron, G., Yelnik, J., Francois, C, 1984, The primate striato-pallido-nigral system: an integrative system for cortical information, in: “The Basal Ganglia Structure and Function,” J. S. McKenzie, R.E. Kemm and L.N. Wilcock, Advances in Behavioral Biology, Vol 27, Plenum Press, New York, pp. 87 - 105.Google Scholar
  24. Strub, R.L., 1989, Frontal lobe syndrome in a patient with bilateral globus pallidus lesions, Arch. Neurol.46: 1024 - 1027.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Stuss, D.T., and Benson, D.F., 1986, “The frontal lobes,” New York, Raven Press.Google Scholar
  26. Taylor, AE., Saint-Cyr, A., and Lang, A.E., 1986, Frontal lobe dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease, Brain109:845–883.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dominique Laplane
    • 1
  1. 1.Service de NeurologieGroupe Hospitalier Pitié-SalpêtrièreParis, Cedex 13France

Personalised recommendations