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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter January 18, 2013

The role of the subthalamic nucleus in cognition

David B. Weintraub and Kareem A. Zaghloul


Because the complex functions of the basal ganglia have been increasingly studied over the past several decades, the understanding of the role of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) in motor and cognitive functions has evolved. The traditional role in motor function ascribed to the STN, based on its involvement in the cortico-striato-thalamo-cortical motor loops, the pathologic STN activity seen in Parkinson’s disease, and the benefits in motor symptoms following STN lesions and deep brain stimulation, has been revised to include wider cognitive functions. The increased attention focused on such nonmotor functions housed within the STN partially arose from the observed cognitive and affective side effects seen with STN deep brain stimulation. The multiple modalities of research have corroborated these findings and have provided converging evidence that the STN is critically involved in cognitive processes. In particular, numerous experiments have demonstrated the involvement of the STN in high-conflict decisions. The different STN functions appear to be related to activity in anatomically distinct subregions, with the ventral STN contributing to high-conflict decision-making through its role in the hyperdirect pathway involving the prefrontal cortex.

Corresponding author: Kareem A. Zaghloul, Surgical Neurology Branch, National Institutes of Health, 10 Center Drive, 3D20, Bethesda, MD 20814, USA

Received: 2012-9-15
Accepted: 2012-11-19
Published Online: 2013-01-18
Published in Print: 2013-04-01

©2013 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston

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