In an automated tunnel maze, rats were allowed to explore either a 6-arm radial configuration ("experienced") or an alley maze configuration ("nonexperienced"). The activity of control rats was restricted to the center of the maze. After 8 daily sessions and a 5-day break, catheters were implanted into the jugular vein. Two days later, 2-deoxyglucose was administered before both experimental groups were exposed to the 6-arm radial configuration. Nonexperienced rats differed from experienced rats in terms of efficiency of exploration, but not in locomotor activity. Compared with experienced animals, nonexperienced rats showed an increase in 2-deoxyglucose uptake in prefrontal and cingulate cortices and in mediodorsal and laterodorsal thalamic nuclei. Exposure of rats to familiar and unfamiliar maze patterns resulted in different patterns of brain metabolic activity.