A role of NMDA receptors in corticostriatal synaptic plasticity is widely acknowledged. However, the conditions that allow NMDA receptor activation in the striatum in vivo remain obscure. Here we show that NMDA receptors contribute to sustain the membrane potential of striatal medium spiny projection neurons close to threshold during spontaneous UP states in vivo. Moreover, we found that the blockade of striatal NMDA receptors reduces markedly the spontaneous firing of ensembles of medium spiny neurons during slow waves in urethane-anesthetized rats. We speculate that recurrent activation of NMDA receptors during UP states allows off-line information flow through the striatum and system level consolidation during habit formation.