Reentrant corticobasal ganglia circuits are important for voluntary action and for action selection. In vivo and ex vivo studies show that these circuits can exhibit a plethora of short- and long-lasting plastic changes. Convergent evidence at the molecular, cellular, and circuit levels indicates that corticostriatal circuits are involved in the acquisition and automatization of novel actions. There is strong evidence that activity in corticostriatal circuits changes during the learning of novel actions, but the plastic changes observed during the early stages of learning a novel action are different than those observed after extensive training. A variety of studies indicate that the neural mechanisms and the corticostriatal subcircuits involved in the initial acquisition of actions and skills differ from those involved in their automatization or in the formation of habits. Dopamine, a critical modulator of short- and long-term plasticity in corticostriatal circuits, is differentially involved in early and late stages of action learning. Changes in dopaminergic transmission have several concomitant effects in corticostriatal function, which may be important for action selection and action learning. These diverse effects may subserve different roles for dopamine in reinforcement and action learning.