Function of the nucleus accumbens in motor control during recovery after spinal cord injury

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Science  02 Oct 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6256, pp. 98-101
DOI: 10.1126/science.aab3825

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Motivation helps reverse neuronal damage

Motivation plays a fundamental role in mediating recovery after neurological injuries. Sawada et al. evaluated the potential contribution of the nucleus accumbens, a brain motivation center, to movement control after spinal cord injury in monkeys. The activity of the nucleus accumbens during the early phase after injury was important for the recovery of motor performance.

Science, this issue p. 98


Motivation facilitates recovery after neuronal damage, but its mechanism is elusive. It is generally thought that the nucleus accumbens (NAc) regulates motivation-driven effort but is not involved in the direct control of movement. Using causality analysis, we identified the flow of activity from the NAc to the sensorimotor cortex (SMC) during the recovery of dexterous finger movements after spinal cord injury at the cervical level in macaque monkeys. Furthermore, reversible pharmacological inactivation of the NAc during the early recovery period diminished high-frequency oscillatory activity in the SMC, which was accompanied by a transient deficit of amelioration in finger dexterity obtained by rehabilitation. These results demonstrate that during recovery after spinal damage, the NAc up-regulates the high-frequency activity of the SMC and is directly involved in the control of finger movements.

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