Animal models of neurological deficits are essential for the assessment of new therapeutic options. It has been suggested that rats are not as appropriate as primates for the symptomatic modelling of disease, but a large body of data argues against this view. Comparative analyses of movements in rats and primates show homology of many motor patterns across species. Advances have been made in identifying rat equivalents of akinesia, tremor, postural deficits and dyskinesia, which are relevant to Parkinson's disease. Rat models of hemiplegia, neglect and tactile extinction are useful in assessing the outcome of ischaemic or traumatic brain injury, and in monitoring the effects of therapeutic interventions. Studies in rodents that emphasize careful behavioural analysis should continue to be developed as effective and inexpensive models that complement studies in primates.