Administration of 2 and 5 but not 0.4 microgram/microliter 8-hydroxy-2-(di-n-propylamino)tetralin (8-OH-DPAT) into the CA1 region of the dorsal hippocampus 10 min before the acquisition trial in a passive avoidance task significantly reduced retention latencies 24 h later. The effect of 5 micrograms 8-OH-DPAT on retention latencies was completely antagonized by 1 microgram/microliter spiroxatrine, a 5-HT1A receptor antagonist, infused into the dorsal hippocampus 5 min before 8-OH-DPAT. Administered 5 min after the acquisition trial, 5 micrograms/microliters 8-OH-DPAT had no effect on retention latencies 24 h later. Administration of 5 micrograms/microliters 8-OH-DPAT into the dorsal hippocampus did not significantly change the thresholds for responses to the same electrical stimuli used in the passive avoidance task and had no antidepressant-like effect in the forced swimming test. The dose of 5 micrograms/microliters 8-OH-DPAT administered into the dorsal hippocampus caused anxiolytic-like effects assessed by stress-induced deficit in open field locomotor activity. The results suggest that stimulation of 5-HT1A receptors in the dorsal hippocampus impairs rats' performance in a passive avoidance task by interfering with memory processes or by attenuating the emotional impact of the shock through an anxiolytic action.