The role of brown adipose tissue in the thermogenic response to lateral hypothalamic (LH) lesions was investigated. Interscapular brown adipose tissue (IBAT) temperatures were measured during the hours following bilateral electrolytic LH lesions in male rats sedated with pentobarbital sodium. Local temperature changes were also recorded from skin and colonic sites. Consistent with the view that brown adipose tissue plays a primary role in the hyperthermia produced by LH lesions, IBAT depot temperature rose before, at a faster rate, and to a higher level than the other sites. In two subsequent experiments, oxygen consumption, activity, and core temperature were monitored in freely moving male rats with LH lesions, both in warm (25 degrees C) and cold (5 degrees C) environments. The results of these experiments provide some support for the view that LH lesions produce an increase in the regulated level of body temperature. This hyperthermic and hypermetabolic state seems to be mediated, in part, by brown fat thermogenesis and may represent a general increase in sympathetic nervous activity induced by the lesion.