Contributions of the striatum to learning, motivation, and performance: an associative account

Trends Cogn Sci. 2012 Sep;16(9):467-75. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2012.07.007. Epub 2012 Aug 10.


It has long been recognized that the striatum is composed of distinct functional sub-units that are part of multiple cortico-striatal-thalamic circuits. Contemporary research has focused on the contribution of striatal sub-regions to three main phenomena: learning of associations between stimuli, actions and rewards; selection between competing response alternatives; and motivational modulation of motor behavior. Recent proposals have argued for a functional division of the striatum along these lines, attributing, for example, learning to one region and performance to another. Here, we consider empirical data from human and animal studies, as well as theoretical notions from both the psychological and computational literatures, and conclude that striatal sub-regions instead differ most clearly in terms of the associations being encoded in each region.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology*
  • Functional Neuroimaging
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reward