The striatum has long been known to be involved in the control of motor behavior, since disruption of dopamine-mediated function in this brain structure is directly linked to Parkinson's disease and other disorders of movement. However, it is now accepted that both dorsal and ventral striatal nuclei are also essential for a variety of cognitive processes, which depend on reward-based stimulus-response learning. Since the neuroanatomical and neurochemical organization of dorsal and ventral striatum is only partially overlapping, it is likely that both common and nucleus-specific cellular and molecular events contribute to synaptic plasticity, learning and memory processes mediated by these cerebral structures. Alterations in cell signaling in the striatum may be particularly important in the response to both acute and chronic administration of drugs of abuse, resulting in maladaptive changes in the reward-based associative learning involved in addiction, withdrawal and relapse.
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