The effect of selective mu-, kappa-, and delta-agonists on brain surface temperature (Tb), oxygen consumption (Vo2), and heat exchange (Q) was studied in unrestrained, male Sprague-Dawley rats using whole-body calorimetry. Hyperthermia, produced by PL-017 (1.86 nM) given ICV, resulted from increased Vo2 and reduced Q during the first 15-45 min postinjection. Tb returned to control levels due to a combination of increased Q and reduced Vo2. PL-017-induced hyperthermia was abolished by the mu-selective antagonist CTAP (0.75 nM). Dynorphin A1-17 (4.65 nM), a kappa-selective agonist, reduced both Vo2 and Q, resulting in hypothermia that was blocked by the kappa-selective antagonist nor-binaltorphimine (25 nM). The delta-selective agonist DPDPE (4.64 nM) caused no significant changes in Tb, Vo2, or Q. The data indicate that central stimulation of the mu- and kappa-opioid receptors affects both oxidative metabolism and heat exchange, which result in a change in Tb. These alterations can be prevented with selective opioid antagonist pretreatment.