How the motor-related cortical areas modulate the activity of the output nuclei of the basal ganglia is an important issue for understanding the mechanisms of motor control by the basal ganglia. In the present study, by using awake monkeys, the polysynaptic effects of electrical stimulation in the forelimb regions of the primary motor and primary somatosensory cortices on the activity of globus pallidus (GP) neurons, especially mediated by the subthalamic nucleus (STN), have been characterized. Cortical stimulation induced an early, short-latency excitation followed by an inhibition and a late excitation in neurons of both the external and internal segments of the GP. It also induced an early, short-latency excitation followed by a late excitation and an inhibition in STN neurons. The early excitation in STN neurons preceded that in GP neurons. Blockade of STN neuronal activity by muscimol (GABA(A) receptor agonist) injection resulted in abolishment of both the early and late excitations evoked in GP neurons by cortical stimulation. At the same time, the spontaneous discharge rate of GP neurons decreased, pauses between the groups of spikes of GP neurons became prominent, and the firing pattern became regular. Injection of (+/-)-3-(2-carboxypiperazin-4-yl)-propyl-1-phosphonic acid (CPP) [N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist], but not 1,2,3, 4-tetrahydro-6-nitro-2,3-dioxo-benzo[f]quinoxaline-7-sulfonamide disodium [NBQX (non-NMDA receptor antagonist)], into the STN attenuated the early and late excitations in GP neurons, suggesting that cortico-subthalamic transmission is mediated mainly by NMDA receptors. Interference with the pallido-subthalamic transmission by bicuculline (GABA(A) receptor antagonist) injection into the STN made the inhibition distinct without affecting the early excitation. The present results indicate that the cortico-subthalamo-pallidal pathway conveys powerful excitatory effects from the motor-related cortical areas to the GP with shorter conduction time than the effects conveyed through the striatum.