The Subthalamic Nucleus: Unravelling New Roles and Mechanisms in the Control of Action
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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How do we decide what we do? This is the essence of action control, the process of selecting the most appropriate response among multiple possible choices. Suboptimal action control can involve a failure to initiate or adapt actions, or conversely it can involve making actions impulsively. There has been an increasing focus on the specific role of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) in action control. This has been fueled by the clinical relevance of this basal ganglia nucleus as a target for deep brain stimulation (DBS), primarily in Parkinson’s disease but also in obsessive-compulsive disorder. The context of DBS has opened windows to study STN function in ways that link neuroscientific and clinical fields closely together, contributing to an exceptionally high level of two-way translation. In this review, we first outline the role of the STN in both motor and nonmotor action control, and then discuss how these functions might be implemented by neuronal activity in the STN. Gaining a better understanding of these topics will not only provide important insights into the neurophysiology of action control but also the pathophysiological mechanisms relevant for several brain disorders and their therapies.