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The importance of these subcortical nuclei for normal brain function and behavior is emphasized by the numerous and diverse neurological conditions associated with basal ganglia dysfunction, which include: disorders of behavior control such as Tourette syndrome, hemiballismus, and obsessive–compulsive disorder; dystonia; addiction; and movement disorders, the most notable of which are Parkinson's disease, which involves degeneration of the dopamine-producing cells in the substantia nigra pars compacta, and Huntington's disease, which primarily involves damage to the striatum.The basal ganglia have a limbic sector whose components are assigned distinct names: the nucleus accumbens, ventral pallidum, and ventral tegmental area (VTA).

The body and tail show differentiation between the dorsolateral rim and ventral caudate, projecting to the sensorimotor and limbic regions of the striatum respectively.Popular theories implicate the basal ganglia primarily in action selection – in helping to decide which of several possible behaviors to execute at any given time.In more specific terms, the basal ganglia's primary function is likely to control and regulate activities of the motor and premotor cortical areas so that voluntary movements can be performed smoothly.Both segments contain primarily GABAergic neurons, which therefore have inhibitory effects on their targets.The two segments participate in distinct neural circuits.

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