Basal Ganglia

Basal Ganglia dysfunction is a condition associated with motor ability. Basal ganglia disease is a collection of physical dysfunctions and occur when nuclei in brain fails to contain unwanted movements. It may also occur when upper motor neuron circuits are unable to initiate motor functions. This disease occurs when basal ganglia, a group of nerve cells in brain are affected. Damage to these cells affects the ability of a person to control muscle movement and coordination.

There are conditions and disorders, which are linked to the cause of these brain cells’ dysfunction. Recent research has also shown that basal ganglia complications can lead to other conditions like Tourette syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some conditions, which may cause damage of brain cells leading to basal ganglia disease, are such as carbon monoxide poisoning, drug overdose, infections, head injuries and liver disease.

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Other conditions are metabolic problems, copper poisoning, stroke and tumors. In addition, there are other brain disorders, which are associated with basal ganglia dysfunction, and they include Huntington’s disease, dystopia, Wilson’s disease and progressive supranuclear palsy.

Parkinson’s disease affects nearly a million people in US and it is a progressive condition that is incurable. It is caused by death of cells in substantia nigra, which is part of the basal ganglia. Dopamine is a substance that sends information on coordination and movement activities to the brain. It is a neurotransmitter that assists in controlling the brain’s reward and pleasure centers as well as regulating emotional responses and movements.

Substantia nigra decreases the synthesis of dopamine. This means that muscle impulses are delivered slowly causing problems in movement of the muscles. Similarly, Huntington’s disease may cause problems in muscle movements. This is a hereditary autosomal dominant disease. It is responsible for causing death of cells in basal ganglia. By autosomal dominant, it means that one parent can pass gene that make another person of blood relation suffer a disease.

Dystonia may also cause basal ganglia condition. Dystonia is hyperkinetic movement condition and manifests in form of involuntary movement and slowness in intentional movement. This condition may occur as a side effect of Parkinson’s disease or it may be caused by metabolic complication, structural abnormalities, and vascular disorders. In addition, a person may suffer dystonia with no obvious cause.

Wilson’s disease is another condition that can cause basal ganglia dysfunction and it is an inherited condition that leads to copper build up in blood stream. As more copper accumulates in the blood, it may end up in brain damaging the basal ganglia cells. Multiple system atrophy though uncommon, is another condition associated with basal ganglia disease. It may cause nervous problems that control functions of the heart such as heart rate and blood pressure.

A person with multiple system atrophy condition is likely to suffer from basal ganglia disease. A patient with multiple system atrophy shows symptoms like reduced facial expression, unable to close mouth and mask facial appearance. Swallowing and chewing are other signs. Loss of motor skills may be experience leading to difficulties in eating and writing. Muscle rigidly and stiffness is also experienced in patients with multiple system atrophy.

What are the symptoms of basal ganglia disease?

Different symptoms may manifest within a person suffering from basal ganglia condition including problems in controlling speech, posture and movement. A person with this condition may have difficulties sustaining, stopping or starting movement activities.

The destruction of the cells leads to clumsiness, problems in walking, speaking and also swallowing. It may also lead to upper extremity tremors. There are other generalized symptoms that may be noticed and they will depend on which area is affected.

People may show changes in movement such as slowed or involuntary movement. In addition, some patients will have increased muscle tone, muscle spasm, and rigidity. Memory loss may also occur because brain cells do not function properly. Tremors, problems finding words and uncontrollable repeated movement and speech are other signs that may be associated with the condition.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The diagnosis of the basal ganglia depends on the underlying disorder. Multiple tests may be done including complete neurological and physical examination. A scan of the brain is done to determine the extent of damage of brain cells. A doctor will examine and ask question about your medical history and symptoms you have experienced.

CT and MRI scans and image testing may be done. Genetic testing may also be performed. An examination of the neck and brain blood vessels may be carried out with use of magnetic resonance angiography. Blood tests to determine the presence of high blood sugar, liver dysfunction, thyroid dysfunction and elevated levels of copper and iron are also done.

The treatment of the condition mainly depends on the underlying condition. Considering that basal ganglia dysfunction is caused by numerous disorders, doctors examine the problems, which may be causing the damage of cells and offer the right treatment. There are treatments that are designed to help repair the damaged basal ganglia cells.

In essence, if you experience abnormal or involuntary movements and unexplainable falls, you need to contact your doctor. In addition, if you or other people notice that you are slow or shaky, you also need to consult a doctor to be examined if you could be suffering from basal ganglia condition or any other underlying disorder that may lead to brain cells damage.


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Filed in: Diseases and Conditions

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