Knowledge of the effect of dopamine on corticostriatal synaptic plasticity has advanced rapidly over the last 5 years. We consider this new knowledge in relation to three factors proposed earlier to describe the rules for synaptic plasticity in the corticostriatal pathway. These factors are a phasic increase in dopamine release, presynaptic activity and postsynaptic depolarisation. A function is proposed which relates the amount of dopamine release in the striatum to the modulation of corticostriatal synaptic efficacy. It is argued that this function, and the experimental data from which it arises, are compatible with existing models which associate the reward-related firing of dopamine neurons with changes in corticostriatal synaptic efficacy.