Exercise capacity is influenced by both increases and decreases in central dopaminergic activity. To investigate the effects of exercise stress on intracerebral dopamine metabolism, rats were run on a motor driven treadmill at 37 m/min for varying times up to exhaustion at 19.6 +/- 0.6 min. Dopamine, DOPAC, and HVA concentrations in striatum, brain stem, and hypothalamus increased towards exhaustion. 5-HIAA concentrations increased in striatum whereas norepinephrine concentrations decreased in hypothalamus. The results indicate that delayed increases in dopaminergic activity occurs during exercise. These, and other observations indicate that central dopaminergic activity modulates exercise performance.