This investigation reports the possible role of the endocannabinoid anandamide in modulating appetitive behaviour. Given that cannabinoids have been used clinically to stimulate appetite in HIV and cancer chemotherapy patients, there has been a renewed interest in the involvement of cannabinoids in appetite modulation. This is the first report on the administration of anandamide into the ventromedial hypothalamus. Pre-satiated rats received an intrahypothalamic injection of anandamide (50 ng x 0.5 microl(-1)) followed by measurement of food intake at 3 h post injection. Administration of anandamide induced significant hyperphagia. Pretreatment with the selective CB1 cannabinoid antagonist SR 141716 (30 microg x 0.5 microl(-1)), 30 min prior to anandamide injection resulted in an attenuation of the anandamide-induced hyperphagia (P<0.001). This study demonstrates that intrahypothalamic anandamide initiates appetite by stimulation of CB1 receptors, thus providing evidence on the involvement of hypothalamic endocannabinoids in appetite initiation.