Microinjections of L-glutamate or D,L-homocysteic acid were used to stimulate cell bodies in the region of the lateral hypothalamic area (LHA) selectively. Subsequent iontophoretic injections of Phaseolus vulgaris-leucoagglutinin or pressure injections of wheat germ agglutinin-horseradish peroxidase were made into regions containing identified pressor and depressor sites and their connections with the forebrain and cerebral cortex were traced. The results indicate that decreases in blood pressure (10-45 mm Hg) and heart rate (20-70 bpm) could be elicited from tuberal (LHAt) and posterior (LHAp) sites in the LHA and that these regions have ascending projections to the insular cortex, the ventral forebrain including the septal-diagonal band of Broca complex, the ventral palladium, substantia innominata, amygdala, and the lateral preoptic area. In contrast, increases in blood pressure (10-40 mm Hg) and heart rate (20-70 bpm) were elicited primarily from neurons located adjacent to the fornix in the perifornical area (PFA). Injections of tract tracers into this region produced terminal labeling that differed markedly from the pattern seen following injections of tracer into depressor sites in the LHA. In addition, the pattern of anterograde labeling seen following injections of tracer into the anterior PFA differed from that seen following injections of tracer into the posterior PFA. Injections of tracer into the anterior PFA resulted in dense terminal labeling in the medial preoptic area and the parvicellular paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus whereas injections into the posterior PFA resulted in dense terminal labeling in the lateral septal nucleus, nucleus accumbens, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, as well as the medial preoptic area and the parvocellular paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus. The results demonstrate that the posterolateral hypothalamus of the rat contains two regions with specific cardiovascular function and highly organized connections with diencephalic, forebrain, and cortical structures.