Distinct roles of the direct and indirect pathways in the basal ganglia circuit mechanism (2016)

Nihon Shinkei Seishin Yakurigaku Zasshi. 2015 Nov;35(5-6):107-11.

 [Article in Japanese]

Morita M, Hikida T.


The basal ganglia are key neural substrates that control not only motor balance but also emotion, motivation, cognition, learning, and decision-making. Dysfunction of the basal ganglia leads to neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease) and psychiatric disorders (e.g. drug addiction, schizophrenia, and depression). In the basal ganglia circuit, there are two important pathways: the direct and indirect striatal pathways. Recently, new molecular techniques that activate or inactive selectively the direct or indirect pathway neurons have revealed the function of each pathway. Here we review the distinct roles of the direct and indirect striatal pathways in brain function and drug addiction.

We have developed a reversible neurotransmission blocking technique, in which transmission of each pathway is selectively blocked by specific expression of transmission-blocking tetanus toxin, and revealed that the activation of D1 receptors in the direct pathway is critical for reward learning/cocaine addiction, and that the inactivation of D2 receptors is critical for aversive learning/learning flexibility. We propose a new circuit mechanism by which the dopaminergic input from the ventral tegmental area can switch the direct and indirect pathways in the nucleus accumbens. These basal ganglia circuit mechanisms will give us insights into the pathophysiology of mental diseases.