Since its conception three decades ago, the idea that the striatum consists of a dorsal sensorimotor part and a ventral portion processing limbic information has sparked a quest for functional correlates and anatomical characteristics of the striatal divisions. But this classic dorsal-ventral distinction might not offer the best view of striatal function. Anatomy and neurophysiology show that the two striatal areas have the same basic structure and that sharp boundaries are absent. Behaviorally, a distinction between dorsolateral and ventromedial seems most valid, in accordance with a mediolateral functional zonation imposed on the striatum by its excitatory cortical, thalamic and amygdaloid inputs. Therefore, this review presents a synthesis between the dorsal-ventral distinction and the more mediolateral-oriented functional striatal gradient.