Behavioral arrest: in search of the neural control system Academic Article uri icon


  • Scientists have spent hundreds of years trying to understand how the brain controls movement. Why has there been so little interest in knowing how the brain STOPS movement? This review calls attention to behavioral phenomena in which an animal or human undergoes temporary total-body arrest of movement, that is, behavioral arrest (BA). These states can be actively induced by visual stimuli, by body and limb manipulations, and by drugs. Historically, these states have been considered as unrelated, and their literature does not cross-connect. What is known about the causal mechanisms is scant, limited mostly to implication of the brainstem in manipulation-induced BA and dopaminergic blockade in the striatum in the case of drug-induced BA. The possibility has not been experimentally tested that all of these states share with each other not only an active global immobility in which awkward postures are maintained, but also underlying neural mechanisms. This review identifies key brainstem, diencephalic, and basal forebrain areas that seem to be involved in causing BA. We review the evidence that suggest a possible role in BA for the following brain structures: entopeduncular nucleus, medullary and pontine reticular zones, parabrachial region, pedunculopontine nucleus and nearby areas, substantia nigra, subthalamic nucleus, ventromedial thalamic nucleus, and zona incerta. Such areas may operate as a BA control system. Confirmation of which brain areas operate collectively in BA would require testing of several kinds of BA in the same animals with the same kinds of experimental tests. Areas and mechanisms might be elucidated through a strategic combination of the following research approaches: imaging (fMRI, c-fos), lesions (of areas, of afferent and efferent pathways), chemical microstimulation, and electrical recording (of multiple units and field potentials, with an emphasis on testing coherence among areas). We suggest the working hypothesis that BA is created and sustained by coherent, perhaps oscillatory, activity among a group of basal forebrain and brainstem areas that collectively disrupt the normal spinal and supraspinal sequencing controls of reciprocal actions on the extensors and flexors that otherwise produce movement.

author list (cited authors)

  • Klemm, W. R.

citation count

  • 48

publication date

  • December 2001