We have investigated the relationship between alterations in neuronal activity in the superior colliculus and behavioral responses which occur following disruption of basal ganglia circuitry. These changes were analysed following unilateral suppression of the immediate early genes, c-fos and ngfi-a, in the striatum and/or the globus pallidus. Animals with unilateral suppression of immediate early gene expression in the striatum exhibited robust circling activity, following administration of D-amphetamine, that was directed towards the side of suppression. The intensity of rotation was inversely related to the length of the recovery period following antisense infusion and increased significantly when the globus pallidus was infused simultaneously with the striatum. The difference between ipsiversive (towards the antisense-infused hemisphere) and contraversive rotations was calculated and animals were grouped by number according to their ipsiversive bias: I, <50 turns; II, 50-500 turns; III, 500-1000 turns; IV, >1000 turns. Immunohistochemical localization of Fos was used as an indicator of neuronal activity in the superior colliculus. While group I animals showed diffuse Fos-like immunoreactivity throughout the intermediate layers of the superior colliculus, those animals in groups II-IV showed increasing suppression of Fos-like immunoreactivity in the stratum album intermediale and marked enhancement in the stratum griseum intermediale. Correlation and regression analysis revealed a significant positive relationship between the number of ipsiversive rotations and the number of Fos-positive nuclei in the stratum griseum intermediale of the ipsilateral superior colliculus. These data suggest that the degree of rotation elicited in an animal may depend on reciprocal suppression/stimulation of adjacent intermediate strata of the superior colliculus. This study provides the first demonstration, using Fos immunohistochemistry, of changes in tectal activity produced by alterations in basal ganglia function. These findings support previous electrophysiological studies in this region and suggest that the nigrotectal projection may be an important site of altered basal ganglia output.