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This article is part of the Research Topic Neuronal cell signaling and behavior

Review ARTICLE

Front. Behav. Neurosci., 28 July 2011 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2011.00047

Unraveling the differential functions and regulation of striatal neuron sub-populations in motor control, reward, and motivational processes

  • Laboratory of Neurophysiology, School of Medicine, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium

The striatum, the major input structure of the basal ganglia, is critically involved in motor control and learning of habits and skills, and is also involved in motivational and reward processes. The dorsal striatum, caudate–putamen, is primarily implicated in motor functions whereas the ventral striatum, the nucleus accumbens, is essential for motivation and drug reinforcement. Severe basal ganglia dysfunction occurs in movement disorders as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, and in psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and drug addiction. The striatum is essentially composed of GABAergic medium-sized spiny neurons (MSNs) that are output neurons giving rise to the so-called direct and indirect pathways and are targets of the cerebral cortex and mesencephalic dopaminergic neurons. Although the involvement of striatal sub-areas in motor control and motivation has been thoroughly characterized, major issues remained concerning the specific and respective functions of the two MSNs sub-populations, D2R-striatopallidal (dopamine D2 receptor-positive) and D1R-striatonigral (dopamine D1 receptor-positive) neurons, as well as their specific regulation. Here, we review recent advances that gave new insight in the understanding of the differential roles of striatopallidal and striatonigral neurons in the basal ganglia circuit. We discuss innovative techniques developed in the last decade which allowed a much precise evaluation of molecular pathways implicated in motivational processes and functional roles of striatopallidal and striatonigral neurons in motor control and in the establishment of reward-associated behavior.

Keywords: striatum, medium-sized spiny neurons, transgenic mouse model

Citation: Ena S, de Kerchove d’Exaerde A and Schiffmann SN (2011) Unraveling the differential functions and regulation of striatal neuron sub-populations in motor control, reward, and motivational processes. Front. Behav. Neurosci. 5:47. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2011.00047

Received: 29 June 2011; Paper pending published: 17 July 2011;
Accepted: 18 July 2011; Published online: 28 July 2011.

Edited by:

Gilberto Fisone, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

Reviewed by:

Gilberto Fisone, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden
Denis Hervé, Institut du Fer-à-Moulin, France

Copyright: © 2011 Ena, de Kerchove d’Exaerde and Schiffmann. This is an open-access article subject to an exclusive license agreement between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original authors and source are credited.

*Correspondence: Serge N. Schiffmann, Laboratory of Neurophysiology, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Campus Erasme CP 601, 808, Route de Lennik, B-1070 Brussels, Belgium. e-mail: sschiffm@ulb.ac.be