The expression of the c-fos proto-oncogene was studied in two different areas of the motor cortex and in the hippocampus of the rat after performance in an escape task in a Skinner box. Performance in this task caused an increase in the number of cells showing fos-like immunoreactivity in layers V and VI of the forelimb motor-sensory cortex with respect to yoked animals which had received the same amount, frequency and duration of aversive stimulation and manipulation as the trained animals. Therefore, this increase is the specific effect of performing the behavioral task. In the hindlimb motor-sensory cortex there were no differences between the trained and the yoked animals in any of the cortical layers. No differences were observed in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus between trained and yoked animals, while the control animals showed a much lower fos-like immunoreactivity. In conclusion, infragranular layers in the forelimb representation of the primary motor cortex become activated with respect to the expression of fos-like immunoreactivity after performance in an escape task in a Skinner box. This result is consistent with the idea that even in complex structures such as the cerebral cortex, specific trace systems become activated for the performance of complex behavioral tasks.