Inflammation Effects on Motivation and Motor Activity: Role of Dopamine

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2017 Jan;42(1):216-241. doi: 10.1038/npp.2016.143. Epub 2016 Aug 2.


Motivational and motor deficits are common in patients with depression and other psychiatric disorders, and are related to symptoms of anhedonia and motor retardation. These deficits in motivation and motor function are associated with alterations in corticostriatal neurocircuitry, which may reflect abnormalities in mesolimbic and mesostriatal dopamine (DA). One pathophysiologic pathway that may drive changes in DAergic corticostriatal circuitry is inflammation. Biomarkers of inflammation such as inflammatory cytokines and acute-phase proteins are reliably elevated in a significant proportion of psychiatric patients. A variety of inflammatory stimuli have been found to preferentially target basal ganglia function to lead to impaired motivation and motor activity. Findings have included inflammation-associated reductions in ventral striatal neural responses to reward anticipation, decreased DA and DA metabolites in cerebrospinal fluid, and decreased availability, and release of striatal DA, all of which correlated with symptoms of reduced motivation and/or motor retardation. Importantly, inflammation-associated symptoms are often difficult to treat, and evidence suggests that inflammation may decrease DA synthesis and availability, thus circumventing the efficacy of standard pharmacotherapies. This review will highlight the impact of administration of inflammatory stimuli on the brain in relation to motivation and motor function. Recent data demonstrating similar relationships between increased inflammation and altered DAergic corticostriatal circuitry and behavior in patients with major depressive disorder will also be presented. Finally, we will discuss the mechanisms by which inflammation affects DA neurotransmission and relevance to novel therapeutic strategies to treat reduced motivation and motor symptoms in patients with high inflammation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism*
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Mental Disorders* / immunology
  • Mental Disorders* / metabolism
  • Mental Disorders* / physiopathology
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Disorders* / immunology
  • Psychomotor Disorders* / metabolism
  • Psychomotor Disorders* / physiopathology


  • Dopamine