Numerous evidence suggests that interneurons located in the lateral tegmentum at the level of the trigeminal motor nucleus contribute importantly to the circuitry involved in mastication. However, the question of whether these neurons participate actively to genesis of the rhythmic motor pattern or simply relay it to trigeminal motoneurons remains open. To answer this question, intracellular recordings were performed in an in vitro slice preparation comprising interneurons of the peritrigeminal area (PeriV) surrounding the trigeminal motor nucleus (NVmt) and the parvocellular reticular formation ventral and caudal to it (PCRt). Intracellular and extracellular injections of anterograde tracers were also used to examine the local connections established by these neurons. In 97% of recordings, electrical stimulation of adjacent areas evoked a postsynaptic potential (PSP). These PSPs were primarily excitatory, but inhibitory and biphasic responses were also induced. Most occurred at latencies longer than those required for monosynaptic transmission and were considered to involve oligosynaptic pathways. Both the anatomical and physiological findings show that all divisions of PeriV and PCRt are extensively interconnected. Most responses followed high-frequency stimulation (50 Hz) and showed little variability in latency indicating that the network reliably distributes inputs across all areas. In all neurons but one, excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) or inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs) were also elicited by stimulation of NVmt, suggesting the existence of excitatory and inhibitory interneurons within the motor nucleus. In a number of cases, these PSPs were reproduced by local injection of glutamate in lieu of the electrical stimulation. All EPSPs induced by stimulation of PeriV, PCRt, or NVmt were sensitive to ionotropic glutamate receptor antagonists 6-cyano-7-dinitroquinoxaline and D,L-2-amino-5-phosphonovaleric acid, while IPSPs were blocked by bicuculline and strychnine, antagonists of GABA(A) and glycine receptors. Examination of PeriV and PCRt intrinsic properties indicate that they form a fairly uniform network. Three types of neurons were identified on the basis of their firing adaptation properties. These types were not associated with particular regions. Only 5% of all neurons showed bursting behavior. Our results do not support the hypothesis that neurons of PeriV and PCRt participate actively to rhythm generation, but suggest instead that they are driven by rhythmical synaptic inputs. The organization of the network allows for rapid distribution of this rhythmic input across premotoneuron groups.