We have examined in the rat the effects of a selective non-competitive antagonist for the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) type excitatory amino acid receptor, dizocilpine (MK-801), on cortical dopamine (DA) metabolism using an in vivo dialysis technique. An acute intraperitoneal injection of MK-801 (0.4-1.25 mg/kg) dramatically increased the concentrations of dopamine, 3,4-dihydroxy-phenylacetic acid and homovanillic acid in the dialysates from the medial frontal cortex in a dose-dependent fashion. Moreover, MK-801 caused a delayed and small augmentation of the cortical extracellular release of 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid. Continuous infusion of tetrodotoxin into the prefrontal region via the microdialysis tube completely blocked the ability of MK-801 (1.25 mg/kg, intraperitoneally) to augment the extracellular release of DA, its metabolites and the serotonin metabolite in the frontal cortex. The present results suggest that MK-801 facilitates DA release in the medial frontal cortex by increasing impulse flow in the DA neurons projecting to the cortical area adding further support to the view that the NMDA receptor may be involved in the tonic inhibition of frontal cortical DA neurons. It is also proposed that frontal serotonin neurons might be under regulation by excitatory amino acidergic transmission via the NMDA receptor.