Neurochemical and histological studies suggest that methylamphetamine (MA) administered continuously or in high doses is toxic to dopaminergic and serotonergic nerve terminals. Degeneration of the dopaminergic or serotonergic cell bodies themselves has not been reported, however. In the present study, administration of a single 100 mg/kg dose of MA was toxic to a subpopulation of neurons in the somatosensory cortex, an area of the brain which does not contain catecholaminergic or serotonergic cell bodies. This dose of MA also produced a long-lasting depletion of serotonin (5-HT) but not norepinephrine in the somatosensory cortex. Dopamine levels in the somatosensory cortices of control animals were virtually undetectable and therefore were not studied further. Administration of alpha-methyltyrosine (alpha-MT), a catecholamine synthesis inhibitor, prior to the injection of MA blocked both the depletion of 5-HT and the degeneration of cortical perikarya produced by MA alone. Since the MA-induced depletion of 5-HT and the MA-induced degeneration of cortical perikarya are correlated, we suggest that the serotonergic system may be involved in the toxic effects of MA on the cortical neurons.