Voluntary movement involves complex interactions among different brain regions. One main movement area in the brain is the motor cortex, which is located at the rear of each frontal lobe. In this lecture, we will discuss two other structures, the basal ganglia and the cerebellum, which interact with the motor cortex to produce movement. The role that each structure plays in movement will be considered along with examples of how movement changes when each is impacted by an abnormal process. The basal ganglia are a collection of nuclei interacting with the motor cortex. The basal ganglia are made up of a set of subcortical structures that lie deep inside the brain.

These structures are critical for organizing sequences of movement and for learning motor skills. The main parts are the caudate nucleus, the putamen, and the globuspallidus. The basal ganglia’s components work in a loop, receiving information from several cortical areas and then sending the output via the thalamus. Specifically, the caudate and the putamen receive input from the cerebral cortex and send the output to the globuspallidus. Once the globuspallidus has processed the information, it is returned to the motor cortex via the thalamus.

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The globuspallidus actually inhibits the thalamus and stops it from inhibiting movement, thus, the basal ganglia works to select (cause) a movement by ceasing to inhibit it. It is like a mother holding her child back when the child wants to take off on a bike for the first time. If the father comes along and stops the mother from holding the child back, the child can take off.

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Page 1 of 1 PSY4490_Biological Psychology

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Major Motor Structures

The following image shows the major motor structures and how they interact. The primary motor cortex is at the top of the image. You can see that it is located at the rear of the frontal lobes. Just beneath it are the basal ganglia; as you can see, this group of structures is subcortical and centrally located. The cerebellum is at the lowest part of the brain and is positioned toward the rear of the brain.

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