Groups of rats with 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) lesions of either the medial prefrontal cortex (PFC), nucleus accumbens (NAC), or caudate putamen (CPu) were given daily tests for locomotor activity in photocell cages while food deprived. Two separate groups of NAC-lesioned rats were prepared with either large [NACT (90% NAC dopamine depletion)] or partial [NACP (67% NAC dopamine depletion)] lesions. NACT rats were spontaneously hypoactive whereas NACP rats were hyperactive compared with sham-operated controls. PFC-lesioned rats were also hyperactive compared to their respective controls. Spontaneous locomotor activity in CPu-lesioned rats did not differ from shams. When daily food supplements were paired with the photocell cages, all subjects developed a conditioned locomotor response. During the first few days of conditioning, the response to this conditioning procedure was markedly greater in the NACP group whereas the response in the NACT group was unaffected initially and actually enhanced during the latter days of testing. The locomotor response to the conditioning procedure was unaffected in either the PFC- or CPu-lesioned groups. Both the NACT and NACP lesions attenuated the locomotor response to 1.5 mg/kg d-amphetamine sulphate IP, and the NACT group showed a supersensitive response to 0.1 mg/kg apomorphine HCl SC. PFC or CPu 6-OHDA lesions did not alter the response to either drug. These results differentiate the role of PFC, NAC, and CPu dopamine in spontaneous, conditioned, and drug-induced locomotor activity and further implicate dopaminergic mechanisms of the NAC in the magnitude of the behavioural response to incentive stimuli.