Journal Article: Discovering the hidden life of the basal ganglia.

Member Authors
Horn A.


Why study the basal ganglia? This question begins Bergman’s journey in The Hidden Life of the Basal Ganglia: At the Base of Brain and Mind. In jest, Bergman answers with an analogy quoting George Mallory: ‘Because they are there’. This sets the tone for the book: a combination of deep insight with some of the finest humour. [George Herbert Leigh Mallory (1886–1924) replied to the question, ‘Why did you want to climb Mount Everest?’ with the retort ‘Because it’s there’.]

Jokes aside, why should we become students of the basal ganglia? Bergman hurries to justify it further:

‘To understand the brain, we should study all of its parts. The basal ganglia constitute a central processing system involved in all cognitive processes we know of, and with causal links to a spectrum of movement and neuropsychiatric disorders. Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, essential tremor, Huntington’s disease, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, you name it. Look for the basal ganglia and you may find (some) truth. The same goes for systems neuroscience: motor and reinforcement learning, risk-taking, decision making – look for the basal ganglia and you will see.’

Published: Nov 2021