Send to

Choose Destination
Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2011 Nov;96(4):624-36. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2011.08.006. Epub 2011 Sep 16.

The role of the basal ganglia in learning and memory: insight from Parkinson's disease.

Author information

Dept. of Psychology, 406 Schermerhorn Hall, Columbia University, NY 10027, USA.


It has long been known that memory is not a single process. Rather, there are different kinds of memory that are supported by distinct neural systems. This idea stemmed from early findings of dissociable patterns of memory impairments in patients with selective damage to different brain regions. These studies highlighted the role of the basal ganglia in non-declarative memory, such as procedural or habit learning, contrasting it with the known role of the medial temporal lobes in declarative memory. In recent years, major advances across multiple areas of neuroscience have revealed an important role for the basal ganglia in motivation and decision making. These findings have led to new discoveries about the role of the basal ganglia in learning and highlighted the essential role of dopamine in specific forms of learning. Here we review these recent advances with an emphasis on novel discoveries from studies of learning in patients with Parkinson's disease. We discuss how these findings promote the development of current theories away from accounts that emphasize the verbalizability of the contents of memory and towards a focus on the specific computations carried out by distinct brain regions. Finally, we discuss new challenges that arise in the face of accumulating evidence for dynamic and interconnected memory systems that jointly contribute to learning.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center