Function of the Basal Ganglia in Mental Activity
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.
KeywordsBasal Ganglion Frontal Lobe Vascular Dementia Mental Activity Globus Pallidus
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