Electrical activity was recorded in different parts of the brain in Wistar rats from a strain with genetic generalized non-convulsive epilepsy (GNCE or absence epilepsy). Movable bipolar electrodes were lowered stereotaxically by 1 mm steps into the brain in immobilized animals. Spontaneous spike and wave discharges (SWD) of the largest amplitude were recorded in the cortex and in lateral nuclei of the thalamus where they appeared occasionally to precede. Smaller amplitude SWD were recorded in the striatum, hypothalamus, tegmentum and substantia nigra. No SWD were recorded in limbic structures. Partial limbic seizures induced by the introduction of the electrode did not interfere with occurrence of cortical SWD. These results confirm the primacy of thalamocortical involvement in SWD of GNCE. The absence of spread to limbic structures and the implication of a precisely limited substrate in GNCE accounts for the clinical and pharmacological specificity of this particular kind of epilepsy.