The integrative function of the basal ganglia in instrumental conditioning

Behav Brain Res. 2009 Apr 12;199(1):43-52. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2008.10.034. Epub 2008 Nov 5.


Recent research in instrumental conditioning has focused on the striatum, particularly the role of the dorsal striatum in the learning processes that contribute to instrumental performance in rats. This research has found evidence of what appear to be parallel, functionally and anatomically distinct circuits involving dorsomedial striatum (DMS) and dorsolateral striatum (DLS) that contribute to two independent instrumental learning processes. Evidence suggests that the formation of the critical action-outcome associations mediating goal-directed action are localized to the dorsomedial striatum, whereas the sensorimotor connections that control the performance of habitual actions are localized to the dorsolateral striatum. In addition to the dorsal striatum, these learning processes appear to engage distinct cortico-striatal networks and to be embedded in a complex of converging and partially segregated loops that constitute the cortico-striatal thalamo-cortical feedback circuit. As the entry point for the basal ganglia, cortical circuits involving the dorsal striatum are clearly in a position to control a variety of motor functions but, as recent studies of various neurodegenerative disorders have made clear, they are also involved in a number of cognitive and executive functions including action selection, planning, and decision-making.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Ganglia / anatomy & histology*
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology