New blueprint of brain connections uncovers extensive reach of central regulator

Thousands of our daily activities, from making coffee to taking a walk to saying hello to a neighbor, are made possible through an ancient collection of brain structures tucked away near the center of the cranium. The cluster of neurons known as the basal ganglia is a central hub for regulating a vast array of routine motor and behavior functions. But when signaling in the basal ganglia is weakened or broken, debilitating movement and psychiatric disorders can emerge, including Parkinson’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Despite its central importance in controlling behavior, the specific, detailed paths across which information flows from the basal ganglia to other brain regions have remained poorly charted. Now, researchers at the University of California San Diego, Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute and their colleagues have generated a precise map of brain connectivity from the largest…