2-Phenylethylamine (PE) is an endogenous brain amine which produces sympathomimetic responses and potentiates cortical neuron responses to noradrenaline (NA). In order to examine further the mechanism of action of PE, extracellular recordings were made of the activity of single neurones in the cerebral cortex in urethane-anesthetized rats. Sympathomimetic responses to PE were blocked by pretreatment with reserpine, reserpine plus alpha-methyl-p-tyrosine and desipramine. It is concluded that the sympathomimetic responses to PE are indirect. 2-Phenylethylamine potentiated cortical neuron responses to electrical stimulation of the locus coeruleus in a dose-dependent manner. This was seen when PE was given systemically (with as little as 1 microgram/kg) and iontophoretically. The effects of PE were not reproduced by its metabolite phenylacetic acid or its putative metabolite phenylethanolamine. Iontophoretic applications of PE (0-6 nA, 2-5 minutes) potentiated cortical neuron responses to iontophoretically applied NA, without affecting the spontaneous firing rate, or the responses to iontophoretically applied GABA or acetylcholine. This effect of PE was not blocked by pretreatment with alpha-methyl-p-tyrosine or desipramine, and was potentiated by pretreatment with reserpine and reserpine plus alpha-methyl-p-tyrosine. It is probable that the ability of PE to modulate neuronal responses to NA does not involve the presynaptic NA terminal or endogenous NA and it is likely that PE acts directly to increase the efficacy of NA. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that the physiological role of PE is to modulate catecholaminergic transmission within the central nervous system.