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Physiol Behav. 2003 Aug;79(3):451-60.

Basal ganglia systems in ritualistic social displays: reptiles and humans; function and illness.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32608, USA.


Complex, situation-specific territorial maintenance routines are similar across living terrestrial vertebrates (=amniotes). Decades ago, Paul MacLean et al., at the Laboratory of Brain Evolution and Behavior of the National Institute of Mental Health, postulated that these are evolutionarily conserved behaviors whose expression is mediated by the similarly conserved amniote basal ganglia and related brain systems (BG systems). Therefore, they undertook studies in nonhuman primates and in small social lizards (the common green anole, Anolis carolinensis) to examine this idea. MacLean et al. also postulated that when BG systems misfunction in humans, behavioral abnormalities result, some of them under the rubric of psychiatric illnesses. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) was singled out as one likely candidate. In the last dozen years, functional brain imaging studies of OCD patients have validated the contention that this is, in fact, a condition involving dysfunctioning BG systems. Inspired by the MacLean group's original investigations, my colleagues and I have now applied related functional imaging techniques in naturalistic experiments using Anolis to better understand BG systems' roles in the mediation of complex behavioral routines in healthy amniotes. Here, I will review this functional imaging work in primates (man, and a little in monkey) and in lizards. I believe the literature not only supports MacLean et al.'s contentions about BG systems and behavior in general, but also validates Paul MacLean's life-long contention that human behavioral medicine can profit from a broad comparative approach.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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