The classical conditioning of the eyelid motor system in alert behaving rabbits has been used to study the expression of Fos in the hippocampus, and in the occipital, parietal, piriform and temporal cortices. Animals were classically conditioned with both delay and trace conditioning paradigms. As conditioned stimulus, both short and long (20 and 100 ms) tones (600 Hz, 90 dB) or short, weak (20 ms, 1kg/cm(2)) air puffs were used. The unconditioned stimulus was always a long, strong (100 ms, 3 kg/cm(2)) air puff that started 250-270 ms after the onset of the conditioned stimulus. The expression of Fos was significantly increased after both delayed and trace conditioning in the hippocampus, and in the parietal and piriform cortices contralateral to the unconditioned stimulus presentation side, compared with equivalent ipsilateral structures in conditioned animals, or with Fos production in the same contralateral structures in pseudo-conditioned and control animals. Fos expression in some cortical sites was specific to tone versus air puff stimuli when used as conditioned stimulus. Thus, Fos expression was significantly increased in the contralateral temporal lobe when tones were used as conditioned stimulus, for both delayed and trace conditioning paradigms, but not when animals were conditioned to short, weak air puffs. The present results indicate a specific Fos activation in several cerebral cortical structures during associative eyelid conditioning.