From motivation to action: Functional interface between the limbic system and the motor system Academic Article uri icon


  • Limbic forebrain structures and the hypothalamus are essential in the initiation of food-seeking, escape from predators and other behaviors essential for adaptation and survival. Neural integrative activities subserving these behaviors initiate motor responses but the neural interface between limbic and motor systems has received relatively little attention. This neglect has been in part because of the emphasis on the motor control of the movements and on the contributions of the cerebral cortex, cerebellum, spinal cord and other components of the motor system, but more importantly, because of a lack of relevant anatomical evidence of connections. Anatomical findings obtained in recent years now make it possible to investigate the neural interface between limbic and motor systems-neural mechanisms by which "motivation" gets translated into "action". It has been proposed that the nucleus accumbens is a key component of this neural interface since it receives inputs from limbic forebrain structures, either directly or indirectly via the ventral tegmental area of Tsai, and sends signals to the motor system via the globus pallidus. The nucleus accumbens has been implicated in locomotion, a fundamental component of attack, feeding and other behaviors utilized in adaptation and survival. It has also been implicated in oral motor responses, utilized in feeding, drinking, vocalization and other adaptive responses. The role of the nucleus accumbens and its functional relationship with the ventral tegmental area and globus pallidus has been investigated using neuropharmacological-behavioral techniques to initiate and disrupt locomotor and ingestive responses and using electrophysiological recording techniques. The results of these investigations are interpreted in relation to a proposed model of the limbic-motor interface and further experiments are suggested. This model for the initiation of actions by limbic forebrain structures (e.g. the "emotice brain") is considered in relation to what is known about the initiation of actions by cognitive processes involving previous experience and learning, which include research is how the "emotive brain" and the "cognitive brain" operate together in response initiation. © 1980.

altmetric score

  • 9.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Mogenson, G. J., Jones, D. L., & Yim, C. Y.

citation count

  • 1796

publication date

  • January 1980