The spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR) and the Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) inbred rat strains display behavioral differences characterized by relative increases and decreases in levels of activity. Both strains have subsequently been utilized as animal models of hyperactive and hypoactive behavioral traits. The etiology of these behavioral characteristics is poorly understood, but may stem from alterations in the physiology of selected neural circuits or catecholamine systems. This study investigated the cellular properties of neurons from three genetically related strains: the SHR; WKY; and Wistar (WI). In vivo intracellular recordings were made under urethane anesthesia from spiny projection neurons in the striatum, a brain area involved in behavioral activation. Results obtained from 71 spiny projection neurons indicate that most cellular properties of these neurons were very similar across the three strains. However, the amplitude and half-duration of both spontaneously occurring and current-evoked action potentials were found to be significantly different between the SHR and WKY strains with neurons from the SHR firing action potentials of relatively greater amplitude and shorter duration. Action potential parameters measured from the WI rats were intermediate between the two other strains. These differences in action potentials between two behaviorally distinct strains may reflect altered functioning of particular membrane conductances.