Pathways for drainage of interstitial fluid and cerebrospinal fluid from the rat brain were investigated by the injection of 2-5 microliters Indian ink into cerebral white and grey matter and into the subarachnoid space over the vertex of the left frontal lobe. Animals were killed by formalin or glutaraldehyde perfusion 5 min-2 years after injection, and the distribution of ink over the surface of the brain, in 2-mm slices of brain cleared in cedar wood oil, in paraffin sections and by electron microscopy was documented. These investigations showed that carbon particles were distributed diffusely through the interstitial spaces of the white matter whereas they spread selectively along perivascular spaces in the grey matter outlining both arteries and veins and extending to surround capillaries within 1 h. Carbon particles were rapidly ingested by perivascular cells and, to some extent, by meningeal cells surrounding the larger vessels. Very little movement of carbon-labelled perivascular cells and perivascular macrophages was seen after 2 years. Carbon particles entering the subarachnoid space over the vertex of the cerebral hemispheres drained along selected paravascular and subfrontal pathways in the subarachnoid space to the cribriform plate and thence into nasal lymphatics and cervical lymph nodes. These studies demonstrate the diffuse spread of fluidborne tracers through cerebral white matter in the rat, the perivascular spread of tracer in grey matter and the compartmentalised directional flow or tracer through the subarachnoid space to the cribriform plate and nasal lymphatics. Furthermore, particulate matter selectively injected into perivascular spaces in rat grey matter is rapidly and efficiently ingested by perivascular cells.