Somatostatin was first identified chemically in 1973, since when much has been established about its synthesis, storage and release. It has important physiological actions, including a tonic inhibitory effect on growth hormone release from the pituitary. It has other central actions which are not well understood but recent cloning studies have identified at least five different types of cell membrane receptor for somatostatin. The identification of their genes has allowed studies on the distribution of the receptor transcripts in the central nervous system where they show distinct patterns of distribution, although there is evidence to indicate that more than one receptor type can co-exist in a single neuronal cell. Receptor selective radioligands and antibodies are being developed to further probe the exact location of the receptor proteins. This will lead to a better understanding of the functional role of these receptors in the brain and the prospect of determining the role, if any, of somatostatin in CNS disorders and the identification of potentially useful medicines.