The dorsomedial hypothalamus (DMH) has been proposed to play key roles in both the defense reaction to acute stress and in the thermoregulatory response to cold. We reasoned that the autonomic/respiratory motor patterns of these responses would be mediated by at least partly distinct DMH neuron populations. To test this, we made simultaneous recordings of phrenic nerve and plantar cutaneous vasoconstrictor (CVC) activity in 14 vagotomized, ventilated, urethane-anesthetized rats. Microinjections of d,l-homocysteic acid (DLH; 15 nl, 50 mM) were used to cause localized, short-lasting (<1 min) activation of DMH neuron clusters. Cooling the rat's trunk skin by perfusing cold water through a water jacket-activated plantar CVC activity but depressed phrenic burst rate (cold-response pattern). The expected "stress/defense response" pattern would be phrenic activation, with increased blood pressure, heart rate, and possibly CVC activity. DLH microinjections into 76 sites within the DMH region never reduced phrenic activity. They frequently increased phrenic rate and/or plantar CVC activity, but the magnitudes of those two responses were not significantly correlated. Plantar CVC responses were evoked most strongly from the dorsal hypothalamic area and most dorsal part of the dorsomedial nucleus, whereas peak phrenic rate responses were evoked from more caudal sites; their relative magnitudes varied systematically with rostrocaudal position. Tachycardia correlated with plantar CVC responses but not phrenic rate. These findings indicate that localized activation of DMH neurons does not evoke full "cold-response" or stress/defense response patterns, but they demonstrate the existence of significant functional topography within the DMH region.