Basal Ganglia - Neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters

In most regions of the brain, the predominant classes of neurons use glutamate as neurotransmitter and have excitatory effects on their targets. In the basal ganglia, however, the great majority of neurons use GABA as neurotransmitter and have inhibitory effects on their targets. The inputs from the cortex and thalamus to the striatum and STN are glutamatergic, but the outputs from the striatum, pallidum, and substantia nigra pars reticulata all use GABA. Thus, following the initial excitation of the striatum, the internal dynamics of the basal ganglia are dominated by inhibition and disinhibition.

Other neurotransmitters have important modulatory effects. The most intensively studied is dopamine, which is used by the projection from the substantia nigra pars compacta to the striatum, and also in the analogous projection from the ventral tegmental area to the nucleus accumbens. Acetylcholine also plays an important role, being used both by several external inputs to the striatum, and by a group of striatal interneurons. Although cholinergic cells make up only a small fraction of the total population, the striatum has one of the highest acetylcholine concentrations of any brain structure.

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