The possible existence of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) and non-NMDA receptors on electrophysiologically identified nondopamine neurones in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) was tested in rat midbrain slice preparations. NMDA, kainate (KA), and AMPA (alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionic acid) depolarized the membrane potential of nondopamine neurons in a dose-dependent manner. The NMDA effect was blocked by the selective NMDA receptor antagonist, CGS 19755 (cis-4-phosphonomethyl-2-piperidine carboxylate), but not by the non-NMDA receptor antagonist, NBQX [2,3-dihydroxy-6-nitro-7-sulfamoyl-benzo(F)quinoxaline]. In contrast, the effects of KA and AMPA were antagonized by NBQX, but not by CGS 19755. The rank order potency of the three agonists was AMPA > KA > NMDA, with thresholds of 0.1, 0.3, and 3 microM, respectively. These results provide clear electrophysiological evidence that nondopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area possess both NMDA and non-NMDA receptors.