We investigated the effects of dopamine, octopamine, and serotonin on the motor output of the pyloric circuit in the stomatogastric ganglion of the lobster, Panulirus interruptus. Amines were bath applied at concentrations from 10(-8) to 10(-4) M, and the responses of the six classes of pyloric neurons were monitored both intracellularly and extracellularly. Each amine modified the pyloric motor pattern in a specific way. In addition, dopamine and octopamine were each able to produce different motor patterns at different concentrations. Amine effects on pyloric neurons included initiation and enhancement or inhibition of spike activity, changes in the phase relationships of neurons, and changes in the cycle frequency of the pyloric rhythm. These results show that the motor pattern produced by this well-studied central pattern generator circuit is highly plastic and can be modulated by endogenous biogenic amines.