The cortico-basal ganglia-thalamic loop is one of the fundamental network motifs in the brain. Revealing its structural and functional organization is critical to understanding cognition, sensorimotor behavior, and the natural history of many neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases. Classically, the basal ganglia is conceptualized to contain three primary information output channels: motor, limbic, and associative. However, given the roughly 65 cortical areas and two dozen thalamic nuclei that feed into the dorsal striatum, a three-channel view is overly simplistic for explaining the myriad functions of the basal ganglia. Recent works from our lab and others have subdivided the dorsal striatum into numerous functional domains based on convergent and divergent inputs from the cortex and thalamus. To complete this work, we generated a comprehensive data pool of ~700 injections placed across the striatum, external globus pallidus (GPe), substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNr), thalamic nuclei, and cortex. We identify 14 domains of SNr, 36 in the GPe, and 6 in the parafascicular and ventromedial thalamic nuclei. Subsequently, we identify 6 parallel cortico-basal ganglia-thalamic subnetworks that sequentially transduce specific subsets of cortical information with complex patterns of convergence and divergence through every elemental node of the entire cortico-basal ganglia loop. These experiments reveal multiple important novel features of the cortico-basal ganglia network motif. The prototypical sub-network structure is characterized by a highly interconnected nature, with cortical information processing through one or more striatal nodes, which send a convergent output to the SNr and a more parallelized output to the GPe; the GPe output then converges with the SNr. A domain of the thalamus receives the nigral output, and is interconnected with both the striatal domains and the cortical areas that filter into its nigral input source. This study provides conceptual advancement of our understanding of the structural and functional organization of the classic cortico-basal ganglia network.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience