In recent years, there has been a great deal of progress toward understanding the role of the striatum and dopamine in action selection. The advent of new animal models and the development of optical techniques for imaging and stimulating select neuronal populations have provided the means by which identified synapses, cells, and circuits can be reliably studied. This review attempts to summarize some of the key advances in this broad area, focusing on dopaminergic modulation of intrinsic excitability and synaptic plasticity in canonical microcircuits in the striatum as well as recent work suggesting that there are neuronal assemblies within the striatum devoted to particular types of computation and possibly action selection.This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Function and Dysfunction of the Basal Ganglia. (C) 2011 IBRO. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.