How the motor cortex influences stress responses in brain re
Building on recent work, researchers have developed a clear picture of how particular circuitry in the brain may be involved in drug- and alcohol-seeking behavior. They derived a control network for the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, a part of a larger brain region sometimes called the extended amygdala.

The researchers used light-sheet microscopy, a technique that enables rapid and 3D imaging of the entire brain, to review every part of the brain that connects to the BNST circuit. These studies were done in parallel with studies exploring the activity of this circuit. By exploring the activity of this circuit in association with a brief stressor (restraint), rather than lengthy alcohol abstinence assays, they were able to accomplish in two and a half days what would have otherwise taken 15 years.

Through this analysis, the researchers could trace the relationship of inputs and outputs to confirm how the circuit works. Surprisingly, the study revealed the top regions of the brain that control the BNST network are the motor and premotor cortices, which are involved in the execution and planning of movement.

The motor cortex in the brain plays a major role in virtually every move we make and affects other aspects of our lives in unexpected ways.

"We suspect there are multiple ways that this process can be regulated, both positive and negative. Whereas exercise might have a positive impact on sobriety, other motor activity may coordinate with inputs to this region of the brain that have an adverse effect."

Ultimately, this early work may lead to a collaboration with genomics and proteomics experts to look for novel targets on the input affecting the motor cortex, to think about activity in a new light. The research suggests that movement and exercise could become a prescription.

Nature Communications