Poly inosinic:poly cytidylic acid (poly I:C) is a synthetic double-stranded RNA and is a ligand for the Toll like receptor-3. This receptor is involved in the innate immune response to viral infection and poly I:C has been used to mimic the acute phase of a viral infection. The effects of TLR3 activation on brain function have not been widely studied. In the current study we investigate the spectrum of sickness behavioural changes induced by poly I:C in C57BL/6 mice and the CNS expression of inflammatory mediators that may underlie this. Poly I:C, at doses of 2, 6 and 12 mg/kg, induced a dose-responsive sickness behaviour, decreasing locomotor activity, burrowing and body weight, and caused a mild hyperthermia at 6h. The 12 mg/kg dose caused significant hypothermia at later times. The Remo400 remote Telemetry system proved a sensitive measure of this biphasic temperature response. The behavioural responses to poly I:C were not significantly blunted upon a second poly I:C challenge either 1 or 3 weeks later. Plasma concentrations of IL-6, TNF-alpha and IFN-beta were markedly elevated and IL-1 beta was also detectable. Cytokine synthesis within the CNS, as determined by quantitative PCR, was dominated by IL-6, with lesser inductions of IL-1 beta, TNF-alpha and IFN-beta and there was a clear activation of cyclooxygenase-2 at the brain endothelium. These findings demonstrate clear CNS effects of peripheral TLR3 stimulation and will be useful in studying aspects of the effects of systemic viral infection on brain function in both normal and pathological situations.