Somatotopy in the basal ganglia: Experimental and clinical evidence for segregated sensorimotor channels

Pantaleo Romanelli, Vincenzo Esposito, David W. Schaal, Gary Heit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Growing experimental and clinical evidence supports the notion that the cortico-basal ganglia-thalamo-cortical loops proceed along parallel circuits linking cortical and subcortical regions subserving the processing of sensorimotor, associative and affective tasks. In particular, there is evidence that a strict topographic segregation is maintained during the processing of sensorimotor information flowing from cortical motor areas to the sensorimotor areas of the basal ganglia. The output from the basal ganglia to the motor thalamus, which projects back to neocortical motor areas, is also organized into topographically segregated channels. This high degree of topographic segregation is demonstrated by the presence of a well-defined somatotopic organization in the sensorimotor areas of the basal ganglia. The presence of body maps in the basal ganglia has become clinically relevant with the increasing use of surgical procedures, such as lesioning or deep brain stimulation, which are selectively aimed at restricted subcortical targets in the sensorimotor loop such as the subthalamic nucleus (STN) or the globus pallidus pars interna (GPi). The ability to ameliorate the motor control dysfunction without producing side effects related to interference with non-motor circuits subserving associative or affective processing requires the ability to target subcortical areas particularly involved in sensorimotor processing (currently achieved only by careful intraoperative microelectrode mapping). The goal of this article is to review current knowledge about the somatotopic segregation of basal ganglia sensorimotor areas and outline in detail what is known about their body maps.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-128
Number of pages17
JournalBrain Research Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2005


  • Basal ganglia
  • Body map
  • Human
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Primate
  • Somatotopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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