Colchicine blockade of axonal transport from the paraventricular nucleus to the median eminence was used to indirectly infer adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) secretagog release in response to a reward presentation and the psychological stressor of frustration. After training rats to drink at the same time of day for 30 min for 2-3 weeks, basal arginine vasopressin (AVP), but not corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) or oxytocin (OT), concentrations were elevated. The frustration of presenting empty water bottles resulted in increased corticosterone concentrations. Concordantly, CRF, AVP, and OT contents in the median eminence decreased compared to controls. All three secretagogs are thus apparently involved in the corticosterone response to frustration. As expected, water presentation decreased both ACTH and corticosterone. Paradoxically, however, CRF, AVP, and OT contents also decreased compared to controls. The discrepancy of ACTH and corticosterone concentrations declining despite release of secretagogs cannot be explained by decreased adrenal or pituitary sensitivities since both exogenous ACTH and CRF elevated corticosterone and ACTH, respectively, in rewarded rats. Secretagog release, therefore, may not always be associated with stimulation of ACTH release.