The particular components in the basal ganglia box of the aforementioned figure with which we deal here are the putamen and the globus pallidus (both the external, labeled GPe, and the internal, denoted GPi). These components are parts of what is called the corpus striatum.
In the Figure below, note that two types of dopamine receptors, namely D1 and D2, are involved in the putamen. There are 8 or 9 different dopamine receptors, but D1 and D2 are the dominant dopamine receptor subtypes in the putamen.
The direct pathway is activated by glutaminergic (glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter) projections from the sensorimotor area of the cortex and by dopaminergic projections from the substantial nigra to the D1 receptors. Activation of the direct pathway inhibits (via GABA) the globus pallidus internal (GPi) which in turn disinhibits the thalamus. As a consequence, the thalami-cortical drive is enhanced and cortically initiated speech will be facilitated.
The indirect pathway arises from the activation of D2 receptors in the putamen which stimulate GABA projections to the globus pallidus external (GPe) resulting in an inhibitory effect. This, in turn, disinhibits the subthalamic nucleus through GABA release. Glutamate projections from the subthalamic nucleus disinhibit the globus pallidus internal (GPi), which in turn inhibits the thalamus.
We see that the direct and indirect pathways act in opposite directions--the indirect pathway being the “brakes,” while the direct pathway is the “gas.” The direct pathway facilitates cortically initiated speech segments, giving a focused cue for the release of a motor segment. The indirect pathway provides a diffuse background of nerve impulse inhibition, suppressing potentially conflicting and unwanted speech motor patterns. The relative strengths of the two pathways determines the strength of the cortico-thalamic pathway. For fluent speech, a balance must exist between these two pathways.