The aim of the present study was to compare the self-stimulation deficit produced by a unilateral injection of the neurotoxin, ibotenic acid, in the lateral hypothalamus (LH) to the deficit produced by the same unilateral injection in the medial prefrontal cortex (MPC). Four groups of adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were used: in two control groups, electrodes were bilaterally implanted in the LH (5 rats) or in the MPC (6 rats) and self-stimulation (ICSS) was obtained separately with the right and left electrodes. In the two experimental groups the intrinsic neurons of the LH (8 rats) or of the MPC (10 rats) were destroyed unilaterally by local injection of ibotenic acid (4 micrograms in 0.5 microliter); the other side served as the sham-lesioned control. Ten days later ICSS electrodes were implanted bilaterally, one in the lesioned area, the other in the contralateral region. As in the case of the control rats, ICSS was determined separately for each electrode, first by a rate dependent test (nose-poke) then by a 'rate-free' test (shuttle-box). In the LH and MPC control rats, ICSS responses were the same with stimulation on either side. In the LH-lesioned rats, the ICSS rates measured with the nose-poke test were significantly decreased with stimulation on the lesioned side, whereas rates with stimulation of the non-lesioned LH were normal. Likewise, while shuttle responses with stimulation of the non-lesioned LH were normal, the OFF-time was increased and the ON-time was decreased with stimulation of the lesioned LH. In the MPC-lesioned rats, ICSS (nose-poke) was totally suppressed and the shuttle responses were disorganized since neither the ON- nor the OFF-times changed in response to increasing current intensities. Nose-poke responses with stimulation of the non-lesioned MPC were just about normal. These results show that in the two brain regions studied local neurons are involved in ICSS. The difference in the magnitude of the deficit observed suggests, that the neuronal circuits involved in MPC self-stimulation are poorly represented whereas in the LH many neuronal circuits involved in these mechanisms overlap.