Recent advances in the understanding of the neural substrates of goal-directed behaviour have created new interest in unlocking the mystery behind those disorders that are characterized by poverty of thought and action. In this review, various studies will be considered which proffer converging evidence that the dopaminergic brain circuitry running from ventral tegmental areas in the midbrain, via nucleus accumbens in the forebrain, to the frontal cortex, tends to produce aboulia when its restitutive function fails. Such aboulic deficits occur in various neurological and psychiatric disorders in which they have profound implications for the patients' management, rehabilitation and social interactions. We begin by examining the consequences of dopamine agonism and antagonism in pre-clinical studies and draw on the inferences that can be made from studies in humans. We then go on to discuss aboulic features in neuropsychiatric conditions, focusing on clinical manifestation, animal models, abnormal dopamine activity and pharmacological interventions. (C) 2000 Harcourt Publishers Ltd.
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