Dopaminergic signals in primary motor cortex

Int J Dev Neurosci. 2009 Aug;27(5):415-21. doi: 10.1016/j.ijdevneu.2009.05.004. Epub 2009 May 14.


Brainstem monoamine areas such as the ventral tegmental area (VTA) send dopaminergic projections to the cerebral cortex that are widely distributed across different cortical regions. Whereas the projection to prefrontal areas (PFC) has been studied in detail, little is known about dopaminergic projections to primary motor cortex (M1). These projections have been anatomically characterized in rat and primate M1. Primates have even denser dopaminergic projections to M1 than rats. The physiological role, the effects of dopaminergic input on the activity of M1 circuits, and the behavioral function of this projection are unknown. This review explores the existing anatomical, electrophysiological and behavioral evidence on dopaminergic projections to M1 and speculates about its functional role. The projection may explain basic features of motor learning and memory phenomena. It is of clinical interest because of its potential for augmenting motor recovery after a brain lesion as well as for understanding the symptomatology of patients with Parkinson's disease. Therefore, targeted investigations are necessary.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Animals
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Motor Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / anatomy & histology*
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / physiology*


  • Dopamine