Cortical and sub-cortical basis of motor control and motor learning

Motor cortex and basal ganglia

The motor cortex and basal ganglia are two important brain regions that are involved in the control of voluntary movement. The motor cortex is located in the frontal lobe and is responsible for initiating and coordinating voluntary movements. The basal ganglia, on the other hand, is a group of structures located deep within the brain that are involved in the selection and execution of voluntary movements.

Figure: A coronal slice showing the location of M1 and DLS that we are interested in.

The motor cortex and basal ganglia interact in a complex and dynamic manner in order to control movement. When an individual wants to initiate a voluntary movement, the motor cortex sends signals to the basal ganglia, which then selects the appropriate muscles and coordinates their movements in order to produce the desired action.

Additionally, the basal ganglia receive input from other brain regions, such as the sensory and cognitive systems, which can influence the selection and execution of movements. For example, sensory information about the environment, such as the position of objects, can be used to guide movements, and cognitive processes, such as decision making, can influence the selection of movements.

Overall, the interaction between the motor cortex and basal ganglia is essential for the control of voluntary movement, and disruptions in this interaction can lead to motor disorders, such as Parkinson's disease.


Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a critical role in the brain's reward and motivation system. Recent research has shown that dopamine is also involved in motor learning, the process by which individuals learn and improve their motor skills.

Studies have shown that dopamine is involved in the initial stages of motor learning, when individuals are learning a new motor skill. In particular, dopamine has been shown to play a role in the formation of new connections between the motor cortex, which is responsible for controlling voluntary movements, and other brain regions involved in motor control.

Additionally, studies have shown that dopamine signaling is correlated with improvements in motor performance. For example, increased dopamine signaling has been associated with better performance on tasks that require a learned motor skill.

Overall, these findings suggest that dopamine plays an important role in motor learning, and that further research into the role of dopamine in this process may provide insight into the neural basis of motor learning and improvement.


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