Previous neurochemical studies have reported different pattern of 5-HT release during exercise varying across either exercise conditions or forebrain sites. This in vivo microdialysis study is the first to examine the impact of an acute intensive treadmill running (2 h at 25 m.min(-1), which is close to exhaustion time), on extracellular 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) levels in two different brain areas in rats, the ventral hippocampus and the frontal cortex. Hippocampal and cortical 5-HT levels increased significantly after 90 min of exercise and were maximal in the first 30 min of recovery. Thereafter, cortical 5-HT levels followed a rapid and significant decrease when hippocampal levels are still maximal. During exercise, changes in extracellular 5-HIAA levels paralleled 5-HT changes, but showed no difference between the two brain areas during recovery. Thus, an intensive exercise induces a delayed increase in brain 5-HT release but recovery seems to display site-dependent patterns.