Complex motor and sensorimotor functions of striatal and accumbens dopamine: involvement in instrumental behavior processes

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1992;107(2-3):160-74. doi: 10.1007/BF02245133.


The suggestions that dopamine (DA) systems are involved in "motor control" and "reward" represent the classic working hypotheses on the behavioral functions of these systems. The research generated by these hypotheses has yielded results that are far more complicated than the simplest form of either hypothesis would indicate. Pharmacological or lesion-induced interference with DA function does not suppress all aspects of movement control, nor all aspects of reward, nor all aspects of motivation. The deficits produced by interference with DA systems are selective and dissociative in nature, affecting some aspects of motor or motivational function, but leaving others basically intact. In some sense the hypotheses that DA is involved in "motor" or "reward" or "motivational" processes are partly correct, but the processes to which these terms refer are too broad to offer an accurate and detailed description of the behavioral functions of brain DA. A review of the literature on the behavioral pharmacology of DA suggests that the behaviors most easily disrupted by DA antagonists are highly activated and complex learned instrumental responses that are elicited or supported by mild conditioned stimuli, and maintained for considerable periods of time. It is proposed that DA in accumbens and striatum modulates the ability of neocortical and limbic areas involved in sensory, associative, and affective processes to influence complex aspects of motor function, and also modulates the execution of complex motor acts organized by the neocortex. Thus, interference with DA systems produces a "subcortical apraxia", which dissociates complex stimulus processes from complex motor processes, but leaves aspects of those processes intact.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology*
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / physiology*
  • Sensation / physiology*


  • Dopamine