In the basal ganglia (BG), anatomically segregated and topographically-organized feedforward circuits are thought to modulate multiple behaviors in parallel. Inherent in this model is the assumption that there is a correspondence between anatomically and functionally defined circuits within and through the BG. Furthermore, layered on this model is the proposal that the direct and indirect pathways act together to select one behavior while repressing others. I will discuss recent results obtained with a variety of anatomical and optogenetic approaches that dissect functionally and anatomically defined pathways in the BG of mice. Our results confirm the parallel model of BG function, and suggest that the integration and competition of information relating to different behavior occurs largely outside of the BG. Indeed, follow-up studies indicated that, for lateralized and incompatible actions such as licking, this competition occurs in the BG output and its targets, such as the superior colliculus. Pathway-specific manipulations of the direct and indirect pathway in the BG indicate that these structures in each side of the brain control the colliculus bilaterally to simultaneously regulate incompatible ipsiversive and contraversive movements.


Bernardo Sabatini is a professor in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. His laboratory focuses on understanding the function and regulation of synapses in the mammalian brain with a particular focus on these processes in the basal ganglia, an evolutionarily conserved brain region that controls many aspects of behavior and whose perturbation leads to devastating neuropsychiatric diseases. In order to conduct their studies, Dr. Sabatini’s laboratory creates new optical and chemical methods to be able to observe and manipulate the biochemical signaling associated with synapse function. 

Dr. Sabatini obtained a PhD from the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School and his MD degree from the Harvard/Massachusetts Institute of Technology Program in Health Sciences and Technology in 1999.  Dr. Sabatini did a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Karel Svoboda at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York.  After his postdoctoral research, Dr. Sabatini joined the faculty in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School in 2001.  In 2008 Dr. Sabatini was named an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, in 2010 the Takeda Professor of Neurobiology, and in 2014 the Alice and Rodman W. Moorhead III Professor of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School.  He is a member of the National Academy of Science and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Dr. Sabatini has contributed to a number of research and nonprofit organizations both domestically and abroad with interests in advancing the understanding and treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders.  He serves on several advisory boards and councils, including those of the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience, Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, and the NCCR-Synapsy initiative.  

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