Caudate Nucleus

This photo gallery presents the anatomy of caudate nucleus by means of MRI (T1-weighted axial, sagittal and coronal views).

The caudate nucleus (CN) plays a vital role in various higher neurological functions. The CN is a paired, C-shaped subcortical structure located deep inside the brain near the thalamus(1).

Caudate nuclei contain a large anterior head, a body, and a thin tail that wraps anteriorly. This wrapping makes the caudate nucleus head and tail visible in the same coronal plane.

The CN and the putamen (a brain structure involved in limb movement) form the striatum, which is considered a single functional structure.

The striatum is the basal ganglia’s primary input source. This pair includes the globus pallidus, subthalamic nucleus, and substantia nigra.

Together, these deep brain structures largely control voluntary skeletal movement. The caudate nucleus functions in movement planning, motivation, learning, memory, reward, emotion, and romantic interaction(2-3).

Input to the CN travels mostly from the ipsilateral frontal lobe of the cortex. Efferent projections from the caudate nucleus travel to the thalamus, globus pallidus, and hippocampus(4).

Research showed that caudate nucleus dysfunction affects several pathologies.

These pathologies include Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease, various forms of dementia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder(5).

Structure and Function

The two caudate nuclei lie near the thalamus in the center of the brain. The CN head forms the lateral ventricle’s lateral wall.

The CN body lies lateral to the lateral ventricle’s body, and the CN tail lies above the lateral ventricle’s temporal horn(6).

Most CN neurons are medium spiny neurons that utilize gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) as their chief neurotransmitter. These neurons send their axons to inhibit other basal ganglia components.

Additionally, the caudate nucleus contains a small number of cholinergic and GABAergic interneurons(7).

The CN’s anterior portion connects with the lateral and medial prefrontal cortices. This portion is involved in working memory and executive functioning(8).

The head of the caudate nucleus connects strongly with the medial frontal pole. The CN’s middle section receives input from throughout the prefrontal cortex(9).

Meanwhile, the caudate nucleus tail interacts with the inferior temporal lobe to help control movement and process visual information(10-11).

Some CN neurons show selectivity for specific visual properties, including direction and spatio-temporal relationships(12). CN tail lesions can impair visual discrimination of presented objects(13).

The caudate nucleus and putamen connect with the substantia nigra(14). The CN has receptive fields in the contralateral visual field and receives topographic visual input from cortical association areas.

The CN integrates visual input and inhibits the substantia nigra. This integration disinhibits the superior colliculus, enabling the coordination of eye movement. The caudate nucleus is vital to voluntary saccadic eye movement(15).

The caudate nucleus also plays a role in association learning by connecting visual stimuli with motor responses and learning with feedback.

Anterior caudate nucleus lesions result in abnormal behavior, which does not correspond to rewards(16).

Specifically, the CN body and tail are principally involved in learning acquisition, while the CN head is involved in processing feedback on learning trials(17).

In one study, the right caudate nucleus’ volume and strong connections with the hippocampus suggested a correlation with memory competition performance(18).

The CN’s right-side posterodorsal body exhibits activation. This exhibition is specific to seeing a romantic partner’s photo. Meanwhile, the medial dorsal striatum involves goal-directed and flexible behavior(19).

Some studies suggest that the mediodorsal striatum involves working memory and may be essential to forming specific memories(20).

The anterior CN has strong connections with the frontal cortex. These structures encode spatial information and reward-and-risk information simultaneously(21).

Lesions to the caudate nucleus and resulting deficits can further elucidate CN function. CN lesions can result in abulia or absence of will(22).

This outcome is fascinating when considered in conjunction with its role in goal-directed behavior and motivation(23).

Clinical Significance

The CN has implications in several neurocognitive impairments and dementia pathologies.

The degree of dementia and neuropsychological performance in Parkinson’s disease is correlated with the loss of dopamine-releasing neurons projecting to the caudate nucleus(24).

The putamen is more severely affected in Parkinson’s disease than the caudate nucleus. Still, early deficits in working memory connect to lower levels of caudate nucleus activity among patients with Parkinson’s disease(25).

Similarly, the degree of CN atrophy and CN dopamine receptor (D2) binding potentials of those with Huntington’s disease (a condition that results in striatal atrophy) correlate with executive task performance(26).

In HIV-associated neurocognitive impairment, experts associate the decreases in CN blood flow and volume with increased impairment. The caudate nucleus blood flow may be a potential biomarker for determining the impairment’s degree(27).

Reference:

• Harnsberger HR, Osborn AG, Ross JS, Moore KR, Salzman KL, Carrasco CR, Halmiton BE, Davidson HC, Wiggins RH. Diagnostic and Surgical Imaging Anatomy: Brain, Head and Neck, Spine. 3rd ed. Salt Lake City, Utah. Amirsys. 2007. • Bourjat P, Veillon F. Imagerie radiologique tête et cou. Paris, Vigot. 1995. • Gouazé A, Baumann JA, Dhem A. Sobota. Atlas d’Anatomie humaine. Tome 3. Système nerveux central, système nerveux autonome, organe des sens et peau, vaisseaux et nerfs périphériques. 1er éd. Paris, Maloine. 1977. • Kahle W, Cabrol C. Anatomie. Tome 3: Système nnerveux et organe des sens. 1er éd. Paris, Flammarion. 1979.

  1. Driscoll ME, Bollu PC, Tadi P. Neuroanatomy, Nucleus Caudate. [Updated 2020 Jul 31]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557407/
  2. Grahn JA, Parkinson JA, Owen AM. The cognitive functions of the caudate nucleus. Prog Neurobiol. 2008 Nov;86(3):141-55.
  3. Fisher HE, Aron A, Brown LL. Romantic love: a mammalian brain system for mate choice. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2006 Dec 29;361(1476):2173-86.
  4. Kotz SA, Anwander A, Axer H, Knösche TR. Beyond cytoarchitectonics: the internal and external connectivity structure of the caudate nucleus. PLoS One. 2013;8(7):e70141.
  5. Driscoll ME, Bollu PC, Tadi P. Neuroanatomy, Nucleus Caudate. [Updated 2020 Jul 31]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557407/
  6. Pellizzaro Venti M, Paciaroni M, Caso V. Caudate infarcts and hemorrhages. Front Neurol Neurosci. 2012;30:137-40.
  7. Hikosaka O, Takikawa Y, Kawagoe R. Role of the basal ganglia in the control of purposive saccadic eye movements. Physiol Rev. 2000 Jul;80(3):953-78.
  8. Graff-Radford J, Williams L, Jones DT, Benarroch EE. Caudate nucleus as a component of networks controlling behavior. Neurology. 2017 Nov 21;89(21):2192-2197.
  9. Kotz SA, Anwander A, Axer H, Knösche TR. Beyond cytoarchitectonics: the internal and external connectivity structure of the caudate nucleus. PLoS One. 2013;8(7):e70141.
  10. Graff-Radford J, Williams L, Jones DT, Benarroch EE. Caudate nucleus as a component of networks controlling behavior. Neurology. 2017 Nov 21;89(21):2192-2197.
  11. Seger CA, Cincotta CM. The roles of the caudate nucleus in human classification learning. J Neurosci. 2005 Mar 16;25(11):2941-51.
  12. Barkóczi B, Nagypál T, Nyujtó D, Katona X, Eördegh G, Bodosi B, Benedek G, Braunitzer G, Nagy A. Background activity and visual responsiveness of caudate nucleus neurons in halothane anesthetized and in awake, behaving cats. Neuroscience. 2017 Jul 25;356:182-192.
  13. White NM. Some highlights of research on the effects of caudate nucleus lesions over the past 200 years. Behav Brain Res. 2009 Apr 12;199(1):3-23.
  14. Grahn JA, Parkinson JA, Owen AM. The cognitive functions of the caudate nucleus. Prog Neurobiol. 2008 Nov;86(3):141-55.
  15. Hikosaka O, Takikawa Y, Kawagoe R. Role of the basal ganglia in the control of purposive saccadic eye movements. Physiol Rev. 2000 Jul;80(3):953-78.
  16. Yanike M, Ferrera VP. Representation of outcome risk and action in the anterior caudate nucleus. J Neurosci. 2014 Feb 26;34(9):3279-90.
  17. Seger CA, Cincotta CM. The roles of the caudate nucleus in human classification learning. J Neurosci. 2005 Mar 16;25(11):2941-51.
  18. Müller NCJ, Konrad BN, Kohn N, Muñoz-López M, Czisch M, Fernández G, Dresler M. Hippocampal-caudate nucleus interactions support exceptional memory performance. Brain Struct Funct. 2018 Apr;223(3):1379-1389.
  19. Grahn JA, Parkinson JA, Owen AM. The cognitive functions of the caudate nucleus. Prog Neurobiol. 2008 Nov;86(3):141-55.
  20. Hasegawa H, Matsuura M, Sato H, Yamamoto T, Kanai H. Imaging of gaps in digital joints by measurement of ultrasound transmission using a linear array. Ultrasound Med Biol. 2009 Mar;35(3):382-94.
  21. Yanike M, Ferrera VP. Representation of outcome risk and action in the anterior caudate nucleus. J Neurosci. 2014 Feb 26;34(9):3279-90.
  22. Driscoll ME, Bollu PC, Tadi P. Neuroanatomy, Nucleus Caudate. [Updated 2020 Jul 31]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557407/
  23. Hikosaka O, Takikawa Y, Kawagoe R. Role of the basal ganglia in the control of purposive saccadic eye movements. Physiol Rev. 2000 Jul;80(3):953-78.
  24. Driscoll ME, Bollu PC, Tadi P. Neuroanatomy, Nucleus Caudate. [Updated 2020 Jul 31]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557407/
  25. Driscoll ME, Bollu PC, Tadi P. Neuroanatomy, Nucleus Caudate. [Updated 2020 Jul 31]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557407/
  26. Grahn JA, Parkinson JA, Owen AM. The cognitive functions of the caudate nucleus. Prog Neurobiol. 2008 Nov;86(3):141-55.
  27. Ances BM, Roc AC, Wang J, Korczykowski M, Okawa J, Stern J, Kim J, Wolf R, Lawler K, Kolson DL, Detre JA. Caudate blood flow and volume are reduced in HIV+ neurocognitively impaired patients. Neurology. 2006 Mar 28;66(6):862-6.

References

Need more?

White IconView Topics