In anaesthetized rats, extracellular and intracellular recordings were taken from 106 respiratory neurones in the intermediate region of the nucleus ambiguus. We observed unprovoked shortening of expiratory time accompanied, in all classes of respiratory neurone, by the elimination of the changes in membrane potential that were characteristic of stage II expiration. The demonstration of the elimination of stage II expiration in both the rat and cat strongly supports the functional division of expiration into stage I expiration (post-inspiration) and stage II expiration. In order to identify the neurones in the rat that receive inputs from vagal afferents and modulate the central respiratory rhythm, we examined whether any respiratory neurones responded to stimulation of the vagus nerve. Some post-inspiratory and stage II expiratory neurones responded. The short latency (< 2 ms) of four of the responses indicates that some vagal afferents act on post-inspiratory neurones via a disynaptic pathway. While repetitive stimulation of the vagus nerve could inhibit the phrenic rhythm, it appears that most inspiratory neurones in the intermediate region of the nucleus ambiguous complex are not directly involved in integrating the information from vagal afferents with the central respiratory rhythm.