In order to evaluate quantitatively the effects of an inhalation anaesthetic on neuronal excitability and on synaptic transmission in the central nervous system, we have examined the action of isoflurane on slices from rat hippocampal cortex. Isoflurane 1.5% (1.38% anaesthetize 50% of tested rats (MAC)) reduced orthodromically evoked activity in pyramidal cells by 62%. This was due to the combined effects on afferent fibres, excitatory synapses and pyramidal cells. The effect on the postsynaptic neurones was almost as strong as the effect on the excitatory synapses: the population spike evoked by a given synaptic current was reduced by 24%, and the field-EPSP in response to a given afferent fibre volley by 27%. The presynaptic fibre volley was reduced by 17%.