The present studies determined whether blockade of M(1)-like muscarinic or nicotinic cholinergic receptors in the dorsomedial striatum affects acquisition or reversal learning of a response discrimination. Testing occurred in a modified cross-maze across two consecutive sessions. In the acquisition phase, a rat learned to turn to the left or to the right. In the reversal learning phase, a rat learned to turn in the opposite direction as required during acquisition. Experiment 1 investigated the effects of the M(1)-like muscarinic receptor antagonist, pirenzepine infused into the dorsomedial striatum on acquisition and reversal learning. Experiment 2 examined the effects of the nicotinic cholinergic antagonist, mecamylamine injected into the dorsomedial striatum on acquisition and reversal learning. Bilateral injections of pirenzepine at 10 microg, but not 1 microg, selectively impaired reversal learning. Analysis of the errors indicated that pirenzepine treatment did not impair the initial shift, but increased reversions back to the original response choice following the initial shift. Bilateral injections of mecamylamine, 6 or 18 microg, did not affect acquisition or reversal learning. The results suggest that activation of M(1) muscarinic cholinergic receptors, but not nicotinic cholinergic receptors, in the dorsomedial striatum is important for facilitating the flexible shifting of response patterns.