Electrophysiological recording, together with anterograde and retrograde axonal tracers, was used to provide a comprehensive description of the origin and distribution of the olfactory input to the lateral hypothalamus. This input was much more substantial to the caudal part of the hypothalamus than to the rostral part and originates from several different areas of the olfactory cortex. Positive responses to electrical stimulation of the olfactory bulb were found consistently in the postero-lateral hypothalamus, but only occasionally at more rostral levels. In agreement with this, injections of wheat germ agglutinin conjugated to horseradish peroxidase (WGA-HRP) in the posterior half of the lateral hypothalamus labeled cells in four cortical areas that receive input from the olfactory bulb: the anterior olfactory nucleus, the piriform cortex (in the deepest layer or ventral endopiriform nucleus), the olfactory tubercle (in the deep polymorphic layer), and the anterior cortical nucleus of the amygdala. Injections of WGA-HRP in the anterolateral hypothalamus labeled cells only in the anterior cortical nucleus of the amygdala. Anterograde axonal tracing confirmed these projections. Injections of 3H-leucine in the anterior olfactory nucleus, the piriform cortex, and the olfactory tubercle produced axonal label that was light and confined to the medial forebrain bundle in the rostral hypothalamus but was more substantial and extended throughout the lateral hypothalamic area caudally. Injections in the anterior cortical amygdaloid nucleus labeled axons in the anterior hypothalamus and in the premammillary nuclei as well as in the posterolateral hypothalamic area. In addition, a projection was demonstrated to the nuclei gemini from the polymorphic zone deep to the olfactory tubercle. Injections of two fluorescent retrograde tracers into the mediodorsal nucleus of the thalamus and the posterolateral hypothalamus showed that cells projecting to both diencephalic sites were intermingled in all of the olfactory cortical areas except the anterior olfactory nucleus, where cells were labeled only from the hypothalamus. In the deep layer of the piriform cortex and in the anterior cortical amygdaloid nucleus cells were also double labeled, indicating that they send collateral axons to both parts of the diencephalon.