Nature Reviews Neuroscience 11, 760-772 (November 2010) | doi:10.1038/nrn2915

Goal-directed and habitual control in the basal ganglia: implications for Parkinson's disease

Peter Redgrave1, Manuel Rodriguez2,3, Yoland Smith4,5, Maria C. Rodriguez-Oroz3,6, Stephane Lehericy7, Hagai Bergman8, Yves Agid9, Mahlon R. DeLong5 & Jose A. Obeso3,6  About the authors


Progressive loss of the ascending dopaminergic projection in the basal ganglia is a fundamental pathological feature of Parkinson's disease. Studies in animals and humans have identified spatially segregated functional territories in the basal ganglia for the control of goal-directed and habitual actions. In patients with Parkinson's disease the loss of dopamine is predominantly in the posterior putamen, a region of the basal ganglia associated with the control of habitual behaviour. These patients may therefore be forced into a progressive reliance on the goal-directed mode of action control that is mediated by comparatively preserved processing in the rostromedial striatum. Thus, many of their behavioural difficulties may reflect a loss of normal automatic control owing to distorting output signals from habitual control circuits, which impede the expression of goal-directed action.

Author affiliations

  1. Neuroscience Research Unit, Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield, S10 2TP, UK.
  2. Department of Physiology, Medical School, University of La Laguna, Tenerife, 38201, Spain.
  3. Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red sobre Enfermedades Neurodegenerativas (CIBERNED), Instituto Carlos III, Ministerio de Investigacion y Ciencias, 28038, Spain.
  4. Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30329, USA.
  5. Department of Neurology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA.
  6. Movement Disorders Group, Neurosciences Division, CIMA and Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Clínica Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona, 31008, Spain.
  7. Centre de NeuroImagerie de Recherche (CENIR), Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle épinière (ICM), Universite Pierre et Marie Curie, Inserm U975, CNRS 7225, Groupe Hospitalier Pitié-Salpêtrière, 75013, Paris, France.
  8. Hebrew University, Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem 91120, Israel.
  9. Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle épinière (ICM), 75013, Paris, France.

Correspondence to: Peter Redgrave1 Email:

Correspondence to: Jose A. Obeso3,6 Email:

Published online 14 October 2010