Congratulations to Drs. Okun and Gunduz on the publication of “Non-Motor Characterization of the Basal Ganglia: Evidence from Human and Non-Human Primate Electrophysiology” in Frontiers in Neuroscience.
Although the basal ganglia have been implicated in a growing list of human behaviors, they include some of the least understood nuclei in the brain. For several decades studies have employed numerous methodologies to uncover evidence pointing to the basal ganglia as a hub of both motor and non-motor function. Recently, new electrophysiological characterization of the basal ganglia in humans has become possible through direct access to these deep structures as part of routine neurosurgery. Electrophysiological approaches for identifying non-motor function have the potential to unlock a deeper understanding of pathways that may inform clinical interventions and particularly neuromodulation. Various electrophysiological modalities can also be combined to reveal functional connections between the basal ganglia and traditional structures throughout the neocortex that have been linked to non-motor behavior. Several reviews have previously summarized evidence for non-motor function in the basal ganglia stemming from behavioral, clinical, computational, imaging, and non-primate animal studies; in this review, instead we turn to electrophysiological studies of non-human primates and humans. We begin by introducing common electrophysiological methodologies for basal ganglia investigation, and then we discuss studies across numerous non-motor domains – emotion, response inhibition, conflict, decision-making, error-detection and surprise, reward processing, language, and time processing. We discuss the limitations of current approaches and highlight the current state of the information.