Information processing, dimensionality reduction and reinforcement learning in the basal ganglia

Izhar Bar-Gad*, Genela Morris, Hagai Bergman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

297 Scopus citations


Modeling of the basal ganglia has played a major role in our understanding of this elusive group of nuclei. Models of the basal ganglia have undergone evolutionary and revolutionary changes over the last 20 years, as new research in the fields of anatomy, physiology and biochemistry of these nuclei has yielded new information. Early models dealt with a single pathway through the nuclei and focused on the nature of the processing performed within it, convergence of information versus parallel processing of information. Later, the Albin-DeLong "box-and-arrow" model characterized the inter-nuclei interaction as multiple pathways while maintaining a simplistic scalar representation of the nuclei themselves. This model made a breakthrough by providing key insights into the behavior of these nuclei in hypo- and hyper-kinetic movement disorders. The next generation of models elaborated the intra-nuclei interactions and focused on the role of the basal ganglia in action selection and sequence generation which form the most current consensus regarding basal ganglia function in both normal and pathological conditions. However, new findings challenge these models and point to a different neural network approach to information processing in the basal ganglia. Here, we take an in-depth look at the reinforcement driven dimensionality reduction (RDDR) model which postulates that the basal ganglia compress cortical information according to a reinforcement signal using optimal extraction methods. The model provides new insights and experimental predictions on the computational capacity of the basal ganglia and their role in health and disease.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)439-473
Number of pages35
JournalProgress in Neurobiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was partly supported by a Center of Excellence grant administered by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF), the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation, the German-Israeli Binational Foundation (GIF) and the BMBF German-Israeli collaboration in medical research. G.M. was supported by the Horowitz fellowship.


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