Substantia nigra control of basal ganglia nuclei

Ezia Guatteo, Maria Letizia Cucchiaroni, Nicola B. Mercuri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The substantia nigra, located in the ventral mesencephalon, is one of the five nuclei that constitute the basal ganglia circuit, which controls voluntary movements. It is divided into the pars compacta and the pars reticulata, which mainly contain dopaminergic and GABAergic cells respectively. Here we overview the electrophysiological properties of these substantia nigra neurons in the pars compacta and reticulata, together with their synaptic connections, and discuss the functional effects of dopaminergic and GABAergic inputs within the basal ganglia. We also examine the phenomenon that when a deficiency of dopamine (DA) occurs (e.g. in Parkinson's disease), there is an aberrant synaptic plasticity in the basal ganglia. Moreover, we point out that the appearance of an altered pattern of neuronal firing (beta-oscillations) and synchrony among neurons in the subthalamic nucleus, the internal globus pallidus, and the substantia nigra pars reticulata has been related to motor symptoms and possibly, persistent degeneration of DA-containing neurons. Finally, we believe that, based on pathophysiological data, new and significant targets for therapeutic intervention can be identified and tested.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-101
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neural Transmission, Supplement
Issue number73
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Basal ganglia
  • Dopamine neuron
  • Electrophysiology
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Substantia nigra

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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