The connections of area postrema include a set of nuclei with a common topographical location immediately deep to the ependyma or pia mater. These nuclei are all within two principal synapses of the area postrema and can be reached by more than one route from it. There is direct evidence that, like the area postrema, a number of these nuclei participate in vomiting. It is suggested that the paraventricular system may act as a distributed pattern generator for the several processes known to be integrated in the emetic response. It is also suggested that the other functions of the paraventricular nuclei, mainly homeostatic in mammals, have all evolved from a prototypical behaviour pattern of escape from, and subsequent avoidance of, noxious stimuli. Thus, through this system of nuclei, blood pressure, respiration, gastrointestinal motility and secretion, fluid and electrolyte balance, and the ingestion of food may all be influenced by noxious situations.