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Michele Basso

Michele BassoAssociate Professor
Ph.D., 1995, SUNY - Stony Brook

Contact Information
(608) 262-7110 Phone
(608) 265-5512 Fax

Research Interests
Neural basis of cognition and voluntary movement

Visit the Basso Lab

My laboratory is interested in understanding the neural basis of higher order processes or cognition. Because the execution of voluntary actions usually involves processes such as target selection, learning, memory, planning and expectation, motor systems are well suited to serve as model systems in which to study these processes. Therefore, we investigate neural processes leading up to the execution of movements of the eyes, in particular, those eye movements that lead to rapid changes in the line of sight - saccades.

We have a multi-technique approach to the study of these processes. First, we record electrical activity of single neurons while the subjects perform eye movement tasks designed to tap into cognitive processes. Second, we activate or inactivate particular regions of the brain to produce behaviors or interfere with ongoing behaviors and neural processing. Finally, because damage to certain brain regions produces profound clinical disorders such as Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease, we study eye movements of both healthy and diseased human subjects to further our understanding of the role these structures play in both cognition and in producing the debilitating effects of these disorders.

FigureFigure: The activity of substantia nigra pars reticulata neurons predicts the certainty of saccades. In this task, a subject views a tangent screen upon which 8 possible stimuli appear.

Later in time, one of the stimuli dims indicating it as the saccade goal. In this task, the same sacade target is identified repeatedly on every trial. The spatial arrangement of the screen the subject views is shown on the left. The temporal arangement along with a schematic representation of eye position is at the top.

Each tick is an action potential recorded from a basal ganglia output nucleus neuron (the substantia nigra pars reticulata). The line through the ticks is the average of the activity across the trials (spike density function).

In the first set of 10 trials (yellow) the neuron decreased slightly when the array appeared and decreased more dramicatically when the target was identified and at the time of the saccadic eye movement.

In the later set of trials (cyan), as the subject learned that the same saccade would be made, the initial decrease in activity was more pronounced. This example shows that this neuron reflects which saccade the subject intends to make and also how certain it is to make it.

Selected Publications

  • Li, X. and Basso, M.A. (2008) Preparing to move increases the sensitivity of superior colliculus neurons. J. Neurosci., 28(17):4561-77
    Abstract | PDF
  • Kim, B. and Basso, M.A. (2008) Saccade target selection in the superior colliculus: a signal detection theory approach. J. Neurosci., 28(12):2991-3007
    Abstract | PDF
  • Wark, H.A., Garell, P.C., Walker. A.L. and Basso, M.A. (2008) A case report on fixation instability in Parkinson's disease with bilateral deep brain stimulation implants. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry., 79(4):443-7
    Abstract | PDF
  • Utter, AA and Basso, MA. (2008) The basal ganglia: an overview of circuits and function. Neurosci Biobehav Rev., 32(3):333-42. Epub 2007 Jan 2.
    Abstract | PDF
  • Basso, M.A. and Liu, P. (2007) Context-dependent effects of substantia nigra stimulation on eye movements. J Neurophysiol., 97(6):4129-42. Epub 2007 Mar 28
    Abstract | PDF
  • Smith, JJ, Hadzic, V, Li, X, Liu, P, Day, T, Utter, A, Kim, B, Washington, IM, Basso, MA. (2006) Objective measures of health and well-being in laboratory rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). J Med Primatol., 35(6):388-96.
    Abstract | PDF
  • Li, X., Kim, B. and Basso, MA. (2006) Transient pauses in delay-period activity of superior colliculus neurons. J Neurophysiol., 95(4):2252-64. Epub 2006 Jan 4.
    Abstract | PDF
  • Li, X. and Basso, MA. (2005) Competitive stimulus interactions within single response fields of superior colliculus neurons. J Neurosci., 25(49):11357-73.
    Abstract | PDF
  • Basso, MA, Pokorny, JJ, and Liu. P. (2005) Activity of substantia nigra pars reticulata neurons during smooth pursuit eye movements in monkeys. Eur J Neurosci., 22(2):448-64.
  • Basso, M.A. and Wurtz, R.H. (2002) Neuronal activity in substantia nigra pars reticulata during target selection. J. Neurosci., 22(5):1883-1894
    Abstract | Full text | PDF
  • Wurtz, R. H., Basso M. A., Paré M., and Sommer, M. A. (2000). The superior colliculus and the cognitive control of movement. In Gazzaniga M. S. (Editor-in-Chief), The New Cognitive Neurosciences, Second Edition (pp. 573-587). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press
  • Basso, M.A. (1998). Cognitive set and oculomotor control. Neuron 21:665-668.
    Full text
  • Basso, M.A. and Wurtz, R.H. (1998). Modulation of neuronal activity in superior colliculus by changes in target probability. J. Neurosci. 18 (18): 7519-7534.
    Abstract | Full text
  • Basso, M.A. and Wurtz, R.H. (1997). Target uncertainty modulates neuronal activity. Nature 389:66-69.
    Full text
  • Krauzlis, R.J., Basso, M.A., and Wurtz, R.H. (1997). Shared motor error for multiple movements. Science 276:1693-1695.
    Abstract | Full text
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Department of Physiology
University of Wisconsin
1300 University Avenue, Room 125 SMI
Madison, Wisconsin 53706-1510
Phone: (608) 262-2938
Fax: (608) 265-5512

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Last Updated: Sep. 2, 2009