Physostigmine, the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor (0.3 mg/kg, i.m.), increased extracellular glutamate but not aspartate concentrations in the striatum of anaesthetised rats, determined using microdialysis and HPLC. The rise was both tetrodotoxin and calcium dependent. In contrast, neither physostigmine (10 microM) added to the perfusion fluid nor vehicle (injected intramuscularly) affected amino acid concentrations. To obtain evidence that the action of acetylcholine was to modulate positively cortical pyramidal neurone activity via the M1 receptor, the selective M1 agonist PD 142505-0028 (10 microM) was topically applied to the frontal cortex. Like physostigmine, PD 142505-0028 rapidly increased glutamate but not aspartate concentrations in the striatum. Moreover, the effect of intramuscular physostigmine was blocked by a topically applied M1 antagonist. These new data add to our hypothesis that cholinomimetics increase pyramidal neurone function.