The serotonergic system and the orbitofrontal cortex have been consistently implicated in the pathophysiology of obsessive compulsive disorder. Yet, the relations between these two systems and the ways they interact in producing obsessions and compulsions are poorly understood. The present study tested the hypothesis that pathology of the orbitofrontal cortex leads to a dysregulation of the serotonergic system which is manifested in compulsive behavior, using a new rat model of this disorder. In the model, 'compulsive' behavior is induced by attenuating a signal indicating that a lever-press response was effective in producing food. We found that lesion to the rat orbital cortex led to a selective increase in compulsive lever-pressing that was prevented by the serotonin re-uptake inhibitor, paroxetine, and was paralleled by an increase in the density of the striatal serotonin transporter, assessed using high affinity [3H]imipramine binding. These results suggest that the serotonergic system is involved in orbital lesion-induced compulsivity, and provide a possible account for the observed association between obsessions and compulsions and dysfunction of the orbitofrontal cortex and of the serotonergic system in obsessive compulsive disorder.