Cholinergic interneurons in the dorsal and ventral striatum: anatomical and functional considerations in normal and diseased conditions

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2015 Sep;1349(1):1-45. doi: 10.1111/nyas.12762. Epub 2015 Apr 15.


Striatal cholinergic interneurons (ChIs) are central for the processing and reinforcement of reward-related behaviors that are negatively affected in states of altered dopamine transmission, such as in Parkinson's disease or drug addiction. Nevertheless, the development of therapeutic interventions directed at ChIs has been hampered by our limited knowledge of the diverse anatomical and functional characteristics of these neurons in the dorsal and ventral striatum, combined with the lack of pharmacological tools to modulate specific cholinergic receptor subtypes. This review highlights some of the key morphological, synaptic, and functional differences between ChIs of different striatal regions and across species. It also provides an overview of our current knowledge of the cellular localization and function of cholinergic receptor subtypes. The future use of high-resolution anatomical and functional tools to study the synaptic microcircuitry of brain networks, along with the development of specific cholinergic receptor drugs, should help further elucidate the role of striatal ChIs and permit efficient targeting of cholinergic systems in various brain disorders, including Parkinson's disease and addiction.

Keywords: Parkinson's disease; accumbens; caudate nucleus; cocaine; drug addiction; putamen.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Brain Diseases / pathology*
  • Cholinergic Neurons / cytology*
  • Cholinergic Neurons / pathology*
  • Corpus Striatum* / anatomy & histology
  • Corpus Striatum* / cytology
  • Corpus Striatum* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Interneurons / cytology*
  • Interneurons / pathology*
  • Nucleus Accumbens
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / pathology
  • Ventral Striatum / cytology
  • Ventral Striatum / pathology


  • Acetylcholine