Previous research indicates that the serotonergic neurons of the caudal dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) are activated to a greater degree by inescapable shock (IS) as compared to escapable shock (ES), causing a greater release of serotonin (5-HT) in the DRN and in target regions. This differential activation is necessary for the behavioral changes that occur after exposure to IS, but not to ES (i.e. learned helplessness/behavioral depression). Although the critical role of the DRN in learned helplessness is clear, the neural inputs to the caudal DRN which result in this selective activation are unknown. One structure that may be involved in the activation of the DRN and the induction of learned helplessness/behavioral depression is the habenular complex. In experiment 1, habenula lesions eliminated the differential rise in DRN extracellular 5-HT levels in response to IS and ES exposure by severely attenuating the rise in 5-HT for both groups. In experiment 2, sham operated and habenula lesioned rats were exposed to either ES, IS or no stress (home cage control; HCC). Twenty-four hours later, sham rats previously exposed to IS exhibited longer escape latencies as compared to both ES and HCC rats (i.e. learned helplessness). The habenular lesion eliminated the differences in escape latency between groups, thus eliminating the induction of learned helplessness/behavioral depression. These results suggest that the habenula is necessary for the differential activation of the DRN and the escape deficits produced by IS.