The effect of electric footshocks and of exposure to environmental stimuli paired with electrical shocks upon the dopaminergic activity in various cortical and limbic areas of the rat were evaluated by measuring dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) levels in these areas. In animals exposed to a 20 min electric footshock session DOPAC concentrations were significantly increased in the antero-medial and sulcal frontal cortices, olfactory tubercle, nucleus accumbens and amygdaloid complex (by 66, 37, 28, 55 and 90% respectively). Re-exposure of rats to an environment where they had been shocked 24 h earlier induced an elevation of DOPAC content only in the anteromedial frontal cortex (by 47%). Plasma corticosterone levels were elevated in both situations. No change in serotonin or 5-hydroxyindolacetic acid content of these areas could be detected in either situation. The results show that electric footshocks and environmental stimuli associated to previous shocks both activate central dopaminergic systems, although the patterns of activation are different.