Controlled cortical impact models produce brain injury by using a pneumatic impactor to impact exposed brain. This study systematically examined the effects of varying magnitudes of controlled cortical impact to the rat brain on neurological, cardiovascular, and histopathological variables. As the magnitude of injury increased, the duration of suppression of somatomotor reflexes and the duration of chronic vestibular motor deficits increased. The blood pressure response was observed to depend on injury levels; a moderate injury level produced a hypotensive response while a high injury level produced an immediate brief hypertensive response followed by hypotension. Low injury levels produced no significant macroscopic or microscopic change, but higher injury levels produced cortical contusion and intraparenchymal hemorrhage which, with increasing survival time, evolved into necrotic changes and cavitation underlying the injury site. Also with high levels of injury, axonal injury was found throughout the brain-stem with the greatest concentration of injured axons occurring in the cerebellar peduncles and pontomedullary junction. These data demonstrate that controlled cortical impact in the rat reproduces many of the features observed in other experimental animal models. This model allows independent control of many mechanical loading parameters associated with traumatic brain injury. The controlled cortical impact rat model should be an effective experimental tool to investigators of traumatic brain injury.