1. Arachidonylethanolamide (AEA; anandamide) has been isolated from mammalian brain and found to bind to, and is thought to be, an endogenous ligand for the cannabinoid receptor. In order to understand better its behavioural and physiological properties, we have examined its acute effects in unanaesthetized freely behaving rats. 2. Intravenous AEA caused dose-related decreases in locomotor behaviour, a pronounced hyperreflexia, and a moderate antinociceptive state. At doses between 3 and 30 mg kg-1, a dose-dependent hypothermia and profound, time-dependent cardiovascular changes were also observed. 3. An immediate bradycardia exceeding 50% was seen within 10-15 s of administration and lasted up to 11 min following the highest dose of the drug. In contrast, the change in mean arterial pressure was biphasic: an immediate 20% decrease in mean arterial pressure followed by a significant increase in blood pressure that lasted about 13 min after the highest dose. 4. These data demonstrate that AEA in the unanaesthetized rat exerts behavioural and physiological effects generally similar to those seen following natural cannabinoids and synthetic cannabimimetic agents and suggests a role for AEA in regulation of various physiological processes.