The motor pattern underlying locomotion in the lamprey is activated and maintained by excitatory amino acid neurotransmission. The quinoxalinediones 6,7-dinitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione (DNQX) and 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione (CNQX) are potent and selective antagonists of non-N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors in the mammalian central nervous system. In the lamprey, these compounds are now shown to block fast excitatory synaptic potentials elicited in neurones of the spinal ventral horn. They selectively antagonise responses to the application of selective kainate and quisqualate receptor agonists (kainate and alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxalone (AMPA)) but do not influence NMDA receptor-mediated responses. Additionally, it is shown that the activation of NMDA receptors is sufficient to elicit and maintain fictive locomotion after blockade of non-NMDA receptors with either DNQX or CNQX. Conversely, activation of quisqualate receptors with AMPA, but not quisqualate leads to fictive locomotion with properties much like that activated by kainate.