The effects of paraquat on rat brain were studied. Activities of complex I (NADH: ubiquinone oxidoreductase) in mitochondrial electron transport system, lipid peroxidation and the amount of catecholamines in rat brain were measured after acute paraquat exposure. Complex I activities were significantly lower and lipid peroxides were higher in the brains of a paraquat-treated group than in those of a control group. Lipid peroxide in rat serum, however, did not increase after paraquat exposure. A study of the time dependency of paraquat effects disclosed that mitochondrial complex I activities in rat brain as well as those in rat lung and liver gradually decreased prior to the appearance of respiratory dysfunction. As compared to controls, the dopamine in rat striatum was significantly lower in the paraquat-treated group. These results suggest that paraquat after crossing the blood-brain barrier might be reduced to the radical in rat brain, which may damage the brain tissue, especially dopaminergic neurons in striatum. We therefore propose that cerebral damage should be taken into consideration on paraquat exposure. Patients may therefore need to be followed up after exposure to high doses of paraquat.