The caudal region of the rodent striatum, called the tail of the striatum (TS), is a relatively small area but might have a distinct function from other striatal subregions. Recent primate studies showed that this part of the striatum has a unique function in encoding long-term value memory of visual objects for habitual behavior. This function might be due to its specific connectivity. We identified inputs to the rat TS and compared those with inputs to the dorsomedial striatum (DMS) in the same animals. The TS directly received anatomical inputs from both sensory structures and value-coding regions, but the DMS did not. First, inputs from the sensory cortex and sensory thalamus to the TS were found; visual, auditory, somatosensory and gustatory cortex and thalamus projected to the TS but not to the DMS. Second, two value systems innervated the TS; dopamine and serotonin neurons in the lateral part of the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) and dorsal raphe nucleus projected to the TS, respectively. The DMS received inputs from the separate group of dopamine neurons in the medial part of the SNc. In addition, learning-related regions of the limbic system innervated the TS; the temporal areas and the basolateral amygdala selectively innervated the TS, but not the DMS. Our data showed that both sensory and value-processing structures innervated the TS, suggesting its plausible role in value-guided sensory-motor association for habitual behavior.
Keywords: dorsomedial striatum; habitual behavior; rostral-caudal axis; sensory input; tail of striatum; value input.