Roles for globus pallidus externa revealed in a computational model of action selection in the basal ganglia.

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Neural networks : the official journal of the International Neural Network Society, ISSN: 1879-2782, Vol: 109, Page: 113-136

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Suryanarayana, Shreyas M; Hellgren Kotaleski, Jeanette; Grillner, Sten; Gurney, Kevin N
Elsevier BV
Neuroscience; Computer Science
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article description
The basal ganglia are considered vital to action selection - a hypothesis supported by several biologically plausible computational models. Of the several subnuclei of the basal ganglia, the globus pallidus externa (GPe) has been thought of largely as a relay nucleus, and its intrinsic connectivity has not been incorporated in significant detail, in any model thus far. Here, we incorporate newly revealed subgroups of neurons within the GPe into an existing computational model of the basal ganglia, and investigate their role in action selection. Three main results ensued. First, using previously used metrics for selection, the new extended connectivity improved the action selection performance of the model. Second, low frequency theta oscillations were observed in the subpopulation of the GPe (the TA or 'arkypallidal' neurons) which project exclusively to the striatum. These oscillations were suppressed by increased dopamine activity - revealing a possible link with symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Third, a new phenomenon was observed in which the usual monotonic relationship between input to the basal ganglia and its output within an action 'channel' was, under some circumstances, reversed. Thus, at high levels of input, further increase of this input to the channel could cause an increase of the corresponding output rather than the more usually observed decrease. Moreover, this phenomenon was associated with the prevention of multiple channel selection, thereby assisting in optimal action selection. Examination of the mechanistic origin of our results showed the so-called 'prototypical' GPe neurons to be the principal subpopulation influencing action selection. They control the striatum via the arkypallidal neurons and are also able to regulate the output nuclei directly. Taken together, our results highlight the role of the GPe as a major control hub of the basal ganglia, and provide a mechanistic account for its control function.