The pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus - A functional hypothesis from the comparative literature

Nadine K Gut, Philip Winn

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47 Citations (Scopus)
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We present data from animal studies showing that the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus-conserved through evolution, compartmentalized, and with a complex pattern of inputs and outputs-has functions that involve formation and updates of action-outcome associations, attention, and rapid decision making. This is in contrast to previous hypotheses about pedunculopontine function, which has served as a basis for clinical interest in the pedunculopontine in movement disorders. Current animal literature points to it being neither a specifically motor structure nor a master switch for sleep regulation. The pedunculopontine is connected to basal ganglia circuitry but also has primary sensory input across modalities and descending connections to pontomedullary, cerebellar, and spinal motor and autonomic control systems. Functional and anatomical studies in animals suggest strongly that, in addition to the pedunculopontine being an input and output station for the basal ganglia and key regulator of thalamic (and consequently cortical) activity, an additional major function is participation in the generation of actions on the basis of a first-pass analysis of incoming sensory data. Such a function-rapid decision making-has very high adaptive value for any vertebrate. We argue that in developing clinical strategies for treating basal ganglia disorders, it is necessary to take an account of the normal functions of the pedunculopontine. We believe that it is possible to use our hypothesis to explain why pedunculopontine deep brain stimulation used clinically has had variable outcomes in the treatment of parkinsonism motor symptoms and effects on cognitive processing. © 2016 International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)615-624
Number of pages10
JournalMovement Disorders
Issue number5
Early online date16 Feb 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Feb 2016


  • acetylcholine
  • basal ganglia
  • cognition
  • dopamine
  • freezing of gait


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