Prepulse inhibition is a cross-species phenomenon in which reflex responses to discrete sensory events are modified by weak prestimulation. In experiments designed to investigate the neuropharmacological mechanism of this form of information processing, and its relevance to schizophrenic psychopathology, apomorphine (0.125-4.0 mg/kg) and d-amphetamine (0.5-4.0 mg/kg) were administered to rats in an attempt to modify prepulse inhibition of the acoustic startle response. Rats were presented with 40 ms, 118 dB[A] acoustic pulses which were intermittently preceded by a weak 80 dB[A] acoustic prepulse. Both apomorphine and d-amphetamine induced a significant loss of prepulse inhibition, as reflected by increased pulse-preceded-by-prepulse versus pulse-alone startle magnitudes. Haloperidol (0.1 mg/kg), a specific D2 dopamine receptor antagonist, prevented the effects of 2.0 mg/kg apomorphine on prepulse inhibition, while having little effect by itself. An additional study investigated the effects of chronic intermittent administration of 2.5 mg/kg d-amphetamine. Rats given amphetamine for 8 consecutive days also displayed a loss of prepulse inhibition, with no evidence of tolerance. Finally, prepulse inhibition was examined under high- and low-intensity startle stimulus conditions; apomorphine (1.0 mg/kg) induced a loss of prepulse inhibition under both intensity conditions in approximately equal proportion. The results of these studies suggest a connection between sensorimotor gating, as measured by prepulse inhibition, and dopaminergic overactivity, supporting suggestions that information processing deficits in schizophrenia may be responsible for some psychotic symptoms and their effective treatment by antipsychotic D2 dopamine antagonists.