Common to all vertebrate, the basal ganglia sits at the base of the forebrain (cerebrum). Strongly connected and functionally interdependent with the cerebral cortex, thalamus, and other brain areas, the basal ganglia are instrumental in a variety of functions, including voluntary motor control, muscle memory, parafunctional habits such as bruxism (grinding teeth), eye movements, and cognitive and emotional functions.
Basal ganglia are implicated in action selection as well as inhibition. Basal ganglia are central to motivation. Behavioral choices coordinated via the basal ganglia are influenced by input from many parts of the mind-brain, including the prefrontal cortex, a key player in executive functions in the cognitive system.
The basal ganglia are active in songbirds while learning songs. The firing rates of basal ganglia neurons in singing birds reaches 700 spikes per second: extremely fast. Basal ganglia circuits similar to songbirds are in the human brain.
Numerous disorders are associated with dysfunctional basal ganglia, including stuttering, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, athymhormia, obsessive-compulsive and other anxiety disorders, Tourette’s, and cerebral palsy.