The effects of repeated restraint stress exposures (daily 60 min, for 6 days) on extracellular dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, during and after the stress experience, have been investigated in rats by in vivo microdialysis. On the first day, restraint increased dopamine release during the first 40 min followed by a return to basal levels (50-60 min later). As soon as restraint ceased and the rats were set free, there was another increase in dopamine release lasting 40 min. On the second and third day, restraint produced only a slight increase in dopamine release, while no significant changes were evident from the fourth to the sixth day. By contrast, from the second to the sixth day the increase in dopamine release observed once rats were freed, was unchanged in comparison to the first day. The present results show that the activation of the mesolimbic dopaminergic system induced by aversive stimuli adapts to repeated experiences differently from that produced by pleasurable events, suggesting that aversive and rewarding experiences involve different neural systems.