We investigated how the cerebral cortex can influence the globus pallidus by two routes: the larger, net inhibitory route through the neostriatum and the separate, smaller, net excitatory route through the subthalamic nucleus. Stimulation (0.3 and 0.7 mA) of two regions of frontal agranular (motor) cortex and of the medial orbitofrontal cortex centered in the prelimbic cortex typically elicited one or more of the following extracellularly recorded responses in over 50% of tested cells: an initial excitation (approximately 6 ms latency), a short inhibition (15 ms latency) and a late excitation (29 ms latency). Some other cells responded with an excitatory response only (18 ms latency). The excitatory responses largely arise from the subthalamic route. Kainic acid or electrolytic lesion of the subthalamic nucleus eliminated most excitatory responses and greatly prolonged the duration (16 vs 50 ms) of the inhibition. Subthalamic neurons typically showed one or more of the following responses to cortical stimulation: an early excitatory response (4 ms latency), an inhibitory period (9 ms) and a late excitatory response (16 ms). The early response was seen after motor cortex but not prelimbic stimulation. The timing of the globus pallidus and subthalamic responses suggest the operation of a reciprocal inhibitory/excitatory pathway. Two reciprocal interactions were indicated. First, pallidal inhibition may disinhibit the subthalamus and, via a feedback pathway onto the same pallidal cells, act to terminate the neostriatal-induced inhibition. Second, there may be a feedforward pathway from pallidal cells to subthalamic neurons to a different group of pallidal cells. This pathway could act to suppress competing responses. Thus the subthalamus may have three actions: 1) an early direct cortical and 2,3) later reciprocal feedforward and feedback excitatory antagonism of the neostriatal mediated inhibition of globus pallidus.