What, If, and When to Move: Basal Ganglia Circuits and Self-Paced Action Initiation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Citations (Scopus)


Deciding what to do and when to move is vital to our survival. Clinical and fundamental studies have identified basal ganglia circuits as critical for this process. The main input nucleus of the basal ganglia, the striatum, receives inputs from frontal, sensory, and motor cortices and interconnected thalamic areas that provide information about potential goals, context, and actions and directly or indirectly modulates basal ganglia outputs. The striatum also receives dopaminergic inputs that can signal reward prediction errors and also behavioral transitions and movement initiation. Here we review studies and models of how direct and indirect pathways can modulate basal ganglia outputs to facilitate movement initiation, and we discuss the role of cortical and dopaminergic inputs to the striatum in determining what to do and if and when to do it. Complex but exciting scenarios emerge that shed new light on how basal ganglia circuits modulate self-paced movement initiation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-483
Number of pages25
JournalAnnual review of neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jul 2019


  • cortex
  • striatum
  • dopamine
  • action selection
  • movement initiation


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