The caudate nucleus, structure and function

The caudate nucleus, structure and function

The caudate nucleus it is a structure of the brain that makes up the striated body next to putamen and the nucleus accumbens. The caudate nucleus, within the striatum, forms part of the basal ganglia, a set of subcortical nuclei that are indispensable for the normal functioning of the nervous system and behavior.


  • 1 Anatomy and structure of the caudate nucleus
  • 2 Functions of the caudate nucleus
  • 3 The caudate nucleus involved in decision making
  • 4 The caudate nucleus, responsible for pessimism
  • 5 Disorders associated with the caudate nucleus

Anatomy and structure of the caudate nucleus

The caudate nucleus is part of the dorsal striatum and is located in the center of the brain, near the thalamus. We have two caudate nuclei, one in each hemisphere and its shape is that of a "C" divided in the area of ​​the head, body and tail.

The caudate nucleus connects with the black substance through dopaminergic neurons What is it sending? In addition, it is connected to many other brain areas such as the thalamus, putamen, pale balloon or the crust.

Functions of the caudate nucleus

The caudate nucleus is highly involved in many essential functions for our adaptation to the environment. One of these functions is that of movement since, through its connections with the cerebral cortex, just like him thalamus, carries out an important function when it comes to directing the movements and contributing to the postural control of the body.

However, despite what was thought in the past, the caudate nucleus participates in many other important functions, being involved in processes of work memory, learning by association, language and even in response to attractive visual stimuli, among many other functions.

The caudate nucleus involved in decision making

One of the main functions, whose discovery has led to many advances in the study of behavior, is the role it has in the decision making. Some studies such as the one published in 2008 by Grahn, Parkinson and Owen indicate that the caudate nucleus, unlike the putamen, manages to activate correct action patterns through target selection based on the evaluation of action-result. Therefore, it helps our behavior to achieve better adaptation to the environment and better survival. The putamenOn the contrary, it seems to contribute to establishing more basic cognitive functions based on learning through stimulus-response, without reaching, according to this study, the greater cognitive complexity that the caudate nucleus achieves.

According to this study, the striatum makes our behavior fulfill its adaptive functions through the connections of brain areas such as the prefrontal cortex and striatum regions such as the ventral striatum, focused on motivation, the caudate nucleus, which influences in the planning of objectives and the putamen that assumes a sensomotor coordination function for the implementation.

The caudate nucleus, responsible for pessimism

It seems that the caudate nucleus is a structure that is very involved in behaviors and emotions pessimistic, as well as in depression. An important study by Graybiel and his team recently found the direct consequences that stimulation of the caudate nucleus had when making pessimistic decisions. The cost-benefit calculation when making any decision that could have been positive before became negative when this nucleus was stimulated and animal behaviors were based on a pessimistic perspective closely linked to depressive disorders.

Disorders associated with the caudate nucleus

Being a structure with so many implications, the damage or malfunction of this is associated with multiple disorders.

The most studied in reference to its connection with this structure is the disease of Parkinson, disorder in which there is a destruction of the dopaminergic neurons from the black substance that connect to the caudate nucleus. In this disease there are symptoms that affect movement, as well as cognitive problems and dementia. These motor problems, as well as dementia, have been commonly associated with the loss of dopaminergic neurons that reach the caudate.

Other disorders that have become associated with the caudate nucleus are the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, in which it seems that the caudate does not correctly control the decision-making process in his connections with the thalamus and the prefrontal cortex, leading to a lack of control of worrying and impulsive thoughts.

In addition, connections have been found between problems in the caudate nucleus and disorders such as Alzheimer's, in which there is a significant reduction in the volume of this structure. Others disorders that somehow connect to a malfunction of this region are Huntington's disease, schizophrenia or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Through new research, neuroscience will find new implications and functions that this important structure can still reveal.


The cognitive Functions of the caudate nucleus //