It took many centuries for the basal ganglia (BG) to be recognized as specific brain entities involved in the control of psychomotor behavior. Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) was the first to delineate this set of structures, but he did not name them nor payany attention to their functional significance. This was left to the English physician Thomas Willis (1621-1675), who used the term corpusstriatum (striated or chamfered body) to designate the largest BG constituent, which he considered a major sensorimotor integration center. Willis’s pioneering description influenced markedly some 18th and 19th centuries scholars, particularly the German physician and anatomist Karl Friedrich Burdach (1776-1847). Burdach’s insightful studies of the human brain are summarized in a three-volume treatise entitled VomBaueundLebendesGehirns (1819-1826). This landmark opus provides a description of the BGwhose originality has largely been overlooked. Burdach’s careful investigation allowed him to differentiate the caudate nucleus from the putamen, which he respectively termed Streifenhügel (elongated hillock) and Schale (shell). He also called the putamen Linsenkern (lens-shaped nucleus), a term that he admittedly borrowed from his compatriot Johann Christian Reil (1759-1813). He further identified a paler structure (blasserKlumpen) within the inner portion of the lentiform nucleus that he called globuspallidus, and correctly identified its inner and outer segments (innernund?ussernTheil). He aptly pointed out that the major BG nuclei are separated from one another by fibers fascicles that he termed innerand ?ussreCapsel (internal and external capsules). Burdach also referred to the substantia nigra (schwarzgraueSchicht or stratumnigrum) and claustrum (Vormauer), but gave full credit to the French anatomist Félix Vicq-d’Azyr (1748-1794) for their discovery. Although Burdach did not comment much on BG function, his anatomical description was sufficiently cogent to be still in use two centuries after its inception.
A. Parent and L.-N. Hazrati, “Functional Anatomy of the Basal Ganglia. I. The Cortico-Basal Ganglia-Thalamo-Cortical Loop. II,” Brain Research Review, Vol. 20, No. 1, 1995, pp. 91-154. doi:10.1016/0165-0173(94)00007-C
J. C. Reil, “Das Verl?ngerte Rückenmark, die Hinteren, Seitlichen und Vorderen Schenkel des Kleinen Gehirns und die Theils Strangf?rmig, Theils als Ganglienkette in der Axe des Rückenmarks und des Gehirns fortlaufende graue Substanzv, Archiv für die Physiologie (Halle), Vol. 9, 1809, pp. 485-524.