Cortical and basal ganglia contributions to habit learning and automaticity

Trends Cogn Sci. 2010 May;14(5):208-15. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2010.02.001. Epub 2010 Mar 5.


In the 20th century it was thought that novel behaviors are mediated primarily in cortex and that the development of automaticity is a process of transferring control to subcortical structures. However, evidence supports the view that subcortical structures, such as the striatum, make significant contributions to initial learning. More recently, there has been increasing evidence that neurons in the associative striatum are selectively activated during early learning, whereas those in the sensorimotor striatum are more active after automaticity has developed. At the same time, other recent reports indicate that automatic behaviors are striatum- and dopamine-independent, and might be mediated entirely within cortex. Resolving this apparent conflict should be a major goal of future research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Association Learning
  • Automatism*
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Habits*
  • Humans
  • Learning*