Nariko Arimura, Yoshihisa Nakayama, Tomoko Yamagata, Jun Tanji, and Eiji Hoshi
J. Neurosci. 2013;33 13639-13653
Multiple loop circuits interconnect the basal ganglia and the frontal cortex, and each part of the cortico-basal ganglia loops plays an essential role in neuronal computational processes underlying motor behavior. To gain deeper insight into specific functions played by each component of the loops, we compared response properties of neurons in the globus pallidus (GP) with those in the dorsal premotor cortex (PMd) and the ventrolateral and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC and dlPFC) while monkeys performed a behavioral task designed to include separate processes for behavioral goal determination and action selection. Initially, visual signals instructed an abstract behavioral goal, and seconds later, a choice cue to select an action was presented. When the instruction cue appeared, GP neurons started to reflect visual features as early as vlPFC neurons. Subsequently, GP neurons began to reflect goals informed by the visual signals no later than neurons in the PMd, vlPFC, and dlPFC, indicating that the GP is involved in the early determination of behavioral goals. In contrast, action specification occurred later in the GP than in the cortical areas, and the GP was not as involved in the process by which a behavioral goal was transformed into an action. Furthermore, the length of time representing behavioral goal and action was shorter in the GP than in the PMd and dlPFC, indicating that the GP may play an important role in detecting individual behavioral events. These observations elucidate the involvement of the GP in goal-directed behavior.