1. In cats anaesthetized with halothane and nitrous oxide, the responses to iontophoretically applied acetylcholine (ACh) and to high-frequency stimulation of the mid-brain reticular formation (MRF) were tested on spontaneously active neurones in the nucleus reticularis thalami and underlying ventrobasal complex.2. The initial response to MRF stimulation of 90% of the ACh-inhibited neurones found in the region of the dorsolateral nucleus reticularis was an inhibition. Conversely, the initial response of 82% of the ACh-excited neurones in the ventrobasal complex was an excitation. Neurones in the rostral pole of the nucleus reticularis were inhibited by both ACh and RMF stimulation.3. The mean latency (and s.e. of mean) for the MRF-evoked inhibition was 13.7 +/- 3.2 ms (n = 42) and that for the MRF-evoked excitation, 44.1 +/- 4.2 ms (n = 35).4. The ACh-evoked inhibitions were blocked by iontophoretic atropine, in doses that did not block amino acid-evoked inhibition. In twenty-four ACh-inhibited neurones the effect of iontophoretic atropine was tested on MRF-evoked inhibition. In all twenty-four neurones atropine had no effect on the early phase of MRF-evoked inhibition but weakly antagonized the late phase of inhibition in nine of fourteen neurones.5. Interspike-interval histograms showed that the firing pattern of neurones in the nucleus reticularis was characterized by periods of prolonged, high-frequency bursting. Both the ACh-evoked inhibitions and the late phase of MRF-evoked inhibitions were accompanied by an increased burst activity. In contrast, iontophoretic atropine tended to suppress burst activity.6. The possibility is discussed that electrical stimulation of the MRF activates an inhibitory cholinergic projection to the nucleus reticularis. Since neurones of the nucleus reticularis have been shown to inhibit thalamic relay cells, activation of this inhibitory pathway may play a role in MRF-evoked facilitation of thalamo-cortical relay transmission and the associated electrocortical desynchronization.