The caudate nucleus plays an important role in the brain of many animals including humans. It is essential for abilities such as memory and learning, although it is also active whenever a person is getting information from his or her senses. Nucleus is the name given to parts of the brain containing a higher density of neurons than other locations. This structure plays a role in a person's ability to understand language and a risk of developing obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
The exact location of the caudate is within the basal nuclei region of the brain. This is toward the front of the brain and controls many different functions, such as muscle movement and learning. Due to its many functions, the basal nuclei region is associated with a number of different brain diseases and disorders such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Early on, scientists thought the caudate nucleus was used to control movement of the limbs. Specifically, scientists believed it controlled movement that the person was aware of and performed consciously, rather than unconscious or reactive movement. While this may be the case, there are now a number of other functions that are thought to be related to this part of the brain, including memory and learning. It is thought that feedback processing that allows the brain to understand what is going on around the body is a major function of this region.
Understanding languages is another ability that can be traced to the caudate nucleus. Although there are other parts of the brain that are responsible for learning a new language, the caudate region allows humans to switch between different languages while still being able to understand meaning. The thalamus is another part of the brain that provides a similar function, and the two work together in order to achieve this ability.
One potential problem that this nucleus may be involved with is OCD, a condition where a person becomes unduly worried about certain events or situations and finds it difficult to find a solution. For example, people with OCD often feel that they have to be cleaner or more organized than other people. Other regions that are thought to cause or affect this condition include the orbito frontal cortex and the thalamus.