The caudate nucleus is an important part of the brain which handles different activities including that of learning. This organ exists in a pair and is located above the thalamus. Both the hemispheres of brain possess the caudate nucleus. The name of this organ is derived from the Latin word, 'cauda' which means tail. It is present, not just in human beings, but also in other species of animals.
Structure of Caudate Nucleus
This organ has a C-shaped structure and is divided into 'head', 'body' and 'tail' that are referred to as caput, corpus and cauda respectively. It is connected to many different areas of the brain including the globus pallidus and putamen. The putamen and caudate nucleus together form a structure called striatum. Floor of anterior horn of lateral ventricle is formed of the head and body of caudate nucleus. Lateral ventricle is one of the parts of brain's ventricular system.
Nerves of caudate nucleus fall in the category of dopamine nerves. The sources from which these nerves originate are the substantia nigra pars compacta (Snc) and ventral tegmental area (VTA). These dopamine nerves also originate from different associated cortices.
Caudate Nucleus Function
It was earlier believed that this organ controlled involuntary movements of the body, However, advanced research has helped in revealing information about this centrally located part of the brain. One can say that caudate is one of the most important parts of the brain owing to a variety of functions it performs; let us find what are the different functions.
Caudate nucleus plays an important role in the process of memorizing and learning. The human ability to comprehend a particular language is governed by thalamus. Caudate nucleus is known to have a relation with the working of thalamus in this area (language comprehension). There also are other roles played by this cerebral organ. The following information should increase our understanding of the different roles.
Regulating Threshold Potential
Another important function performed by it is that of regulating the activity of cerebral cortex. Having a control on the various activities of cerebral cortex is important from the point of keeping a check on threshold potential.
The human brain is able to gather responses from its surrounding by means of feedback mechanism. This mechanism enables a person to respond to a situation accordingly. Caudate nucleus also controls the working of this mechanism.
Hyperthymesia and Caudate Nucleus
Individuals affected by the condition of hyperthymesia exhibit an increase in the size of caudate nucleus. People with hyperthymesia possess an extraordinary capacity to recall events from their past. They also remember the minor details that people generally tend to forget. Increase in the size of temporal lobe along with that of caudate nucleus is observed in people who exhibit this condition. The treatment of patients by paroxetine influences the functioning of caudate nucleus. In these patients, change in glucose metabolism is observed.
Dysfunctional Caudate Nucleus
Proper working of the caudate nucleus is important from the point of maintaining the health of brain. However, any dysfunction or problem in the smooth functioning of this organ can results into disorders. The obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is one such example in which the caudate nucleus becomes dysfunctional. In few cases, the caudare nucleus stops working completely. In such cases, problems like incorrect or improper transmission of information being relayed by the caudate nucleus might occur.
Starting from the structure and location to the functions and associated disorders, the article presents information about this organ in a concise manner. All this information gives us an idea as to how important the caudate nucleus is from the point of smooth working of our bodily (specially the brain) systems.