Microinfusions of a benzodiazepine anxiolytic (midazolam) into the septum or the amygdala suppressed different fear reactions in two tests of rat "anxiety". Septal infusions increased open-arm activity in the plus-maze test and decreased burying behavior in the shock-probe test whereas amygdaloid infusions produced neither of these antianxiety effects. Amygdaloid infusions, however, dramatically impaired shock-probe avoidance, an antianxiety effect not produced by the septal infusions. Infusions of the benzodiazepine receptor antagonist Ro 15-1788 (flumazenil) blocked each of these specific, anti-fear effects of midazolam without producing intrinsic effects by itself. These results suggest that benzodiazepine receptor systems within the amygdala and the septum differentially mediate specific fear reactions.