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On The Functional Anatomy Of The Urge-for-action

S. Jackson, A. Parkinson, S. Kim, Martin Schüermann, S. Eickhoff
Published 2011 · Psychology, Medicine

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Several common neuropsychiatric disorders (e.g., obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette syndrome (TS), autistic spectrum disorder) are associated with unpleasant bodily sensations that are perceived as an urge for action. Similarly, many of our everyday behaviors are also characterized by bodily sensations that we experience as urges for action. Where do these urges originate? In this paper, we consider the nature and the functional anatomy of “urges-for-action,” both in the context of everyday behaviors such as yawning, swallowing, and micturition, and in relation to clinical disorders in which the urge-for-action is considered pathological and substantially interferes with activities of daily living (e.g., TS). We review previous frameworks for thinking about behavioral urges and demonstrate that there is considerable overlap between the functional anatomy of urges associated with everyday behaviors such as swallowing, yawning, and micturition, and those urges associated with the generation of tics in TS. Specifically, we show that the limbic sensory and motor regions––insula and mid-cingulate cortex––are common to all of these behaviors, and we argue that this “motivation-for-action” network should be considered distinct from an “intentional action” network, associated with regions of premotor and parietal cortex, which may be responsible for the perception of “willed intention” during the execution of goal-directed actions.
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