Research into ascending sensory pathways and cortical networks has generated detailed models of perception. These same cortical regions are strongly connected to subcortical structures, such as the basal ganglia (BG), which have been conceptualized as playing key roles in reinforcement learning and action selection. However, because the BG amasses experiential evidence from higher and lower levels of cortical hierarchies, as well as higher-order thalamus, it is well positioned to dynamically influence perception. Here, we review anatomical, functional, and clinical evidence to demonstrate how the BG can influence perceptual processing and conscious states. This depends on the integrative relationship between cortex, BG, and thalamus, which allows contributions to sensory gating, predictive processing, selective attention, and representation of the temporal structure of events.

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