|Brain: Caudate nucleus|
|Transverse Cut of Brain (Horizontal Section), basal ganglia is blue|
|Gray's||subject #189 833|
The caudate nucleus is a nucleus located within the basal ganglia of the brains of many animal species. The caudate nucleus is an important part of the brain's learning and memory system.
thalamus. There is a caudate nucleus within each hemisphere of the brain. Individually, they resemble a C-shape structure with a wider "head" (caput in Latin) at the front, tapering to a "body" (corpus) and a "tail" (cauda). Sometimes a part of the caudate nucleus is referred to as the "knee" (genu).
The head and body of the caudate nucleus form part of the floor of the anterior horn of the lateral ventricle. After the body travels briefly towards the back of the head, the tail curves back toward the anterior, forming the roof of the inferior horn of the lateral ventricle. This means that a coronal (on the same plane as the face) section that cuts through the tail will also cross the body and head of the caudate nucleus.
The caudate nucleus is related anatomically to a number of other structures. It is separated from the lenticular nucleus (made up of the globus pallidus and the putamen) by the anterior limb of the internal capsule. Together the caudate and putamen form the dorsal striatum.
The caudate nucleus is highly innervated by dopamine neurons. These neurons originate mainly from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc). There are also additional inputs from various association cortices.
Learning and memory
Historically, the basal ganglia as a whole have been implicated in higher-order motor control. The caudate nucleus was initially thought to primarily be involved with control of voluntary movement. More recently, it has been demonstrated that the caudate is highly involved in learning and memory, particularly regarding feedback processing. In general, it has been demonstrated that neural activity will be present within the caudate while an individual is receiving feedback. People with "superior autobiographical memory" appear to have slight increases in the sizes of the caudate nucleus as well as of the temporal lobe of the cortex.
The left caudate in particular has been suggested to have a relationship with the thalamus that governs the comprehension and articulation of words as they are switched between languages.
The brain contains large collections of neurons reciprocally connected by excitatory synapses, thus forming large network of elements with positive feedback. It is difficult to see how such a system can operate without some mechanism to prevent explosive activation. There is some indirect evidence that the caudate may perform this regulatory role by measuring the general activity of cerebral cortex and controlling the threshold potential.
Role in obsessive compulsive disorder
It has been theorized that the caudate nucleus may be dysfunctional in persons with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), in that it may perhaps be unable to properly regulate the transmission of information regarding worrying events or ideas between the thalamus and the orbitofrontal cortex.
A neuroimaging study with positron emission tomography found that the right caudate nucleus had the largest change in glucose metabolism after patients had been treated with paroxetine. Recent meta-analyses of voxel-based morphometry studies comparing people with OCD and healthy controls have found people with OCD to have increased grey matter volumes in bilateral lenticular nuclei, extending to the caudate nuclei, while decreased grey matter volumes in bilateral dorsal medial frontal/anterior cingulate gyri. These findings contrast with those in people with other anxiety disorders, who evince decreased (rather than increased) grey matter volumes in bilateral lenticular / caudate nuclei, while also decreased grey matter volumes in bilateral dorsal medial frontal/anterior cingulate gyri.