The expression of the immediate-early gene c-fos was used as a marker of neuronal activity to investigate the cervical spinal interneuron populations involved in the corticomotoneuronal pathway. Adult rats received unilateral kainate injections in the forelimb area of the primary motor cortex. After a survival period of 90 min, during which the animals showed vehement twitching of the contralateral forelimb, the rats were perfused and their brains and cervical spinal cords processed for Fos-like immunoreactivity. In the cervical spinal cord Fos-like immunoreactive neurons were found bilaterally in the dorsal horn and in the intermediate zone, though contralaterally significantly more labelled nuclei were encountered in two different areas. One area closely resembles the corticospinal terminal field as demonstrated with anterograde horseradish-peroxidase tract-tracing and the other reflecting primary afferent and noxious sensory neurons in the dorsal horn. Thus by monitoring the evoked expression of the immediate-early gene c-fos, structural components of the rat motor system can be identified.