Stimulation of the superior colliculus in rats produces movements of the head and body that resemble either orientation and approach towards a contralateral stimulus, or avoidance of, or escape from, such a stimulus. A variety of evidence indicates that the crossed descending pathway, which runs in the contralateral predorsal bundle to the pontomedullary reticular formation and the spinal cord, is involved in orienting movements. The nature of this involvement was investigated, by assessing the effects on tectally-elicited movements of midbrain knife-cuts intended to section the pathway as it crosses midline in the dorsal tegmental decussation. As expected, ipsilateral movements resembling avoidance or escape were little affected by dorsal tegmental decussation section, whereas contralateral circling movements of the body were almost abolished. However, contralateral movements of the head in response to electrical stimulation were not eliminated, nor were orienting head movements to visual or tactile stimuli. There was some suggestion that section of the dorsal tegmental decussation increased the latency of head movements from electrical stimulation at lateral sites, and decreased the accuracy of orienting movements to sensory stimuli. These results support the view that the crossed tectoreticulospinal system is concerned with approach rather than avoidance movements. However, it appears that other, as yet unidentified, tectal efferent systems are also involved in orienting head movements. It is possible that this division of labour may reflect functional differences between various kinds of apparently similar orienting responses. One suggestion is that the tectoreticulospinal system is concerned less in open-loop orienting responses (that are initiated but not subsequently guided by sensory stimuli), than in following or pursuit movements.