Centrally-mediated responses to plasma hyperosmolality include compensatory drinking and pituitary secretion of vasopressin and oxytocin in both adult and neonatal rats. However, the anorexia that is produced by plasma hyperosmolality in adult rats is not evident in neonates, perhaps due to functional immaturity of osmoresponsive hindbrain circuits. To examine this possibility, the present study compared treatment-induced brain expression of the immediate-early gene product c-Fos as a marker of neural activation in adult and two-day-old rats after subcutaneous injection of 2 M NaCl (0.1 ml/10 g body weight). This treatment produced marked hypernatremia in adult and two-day-old rats without altering plasma volume. Several brain regions (including components of the lamina terminalis, the paraventricular and supraoptic nuclei of the hypothalamus, and the area postrema) were activated to express c-Fos similarly in adult and two-day-old rats after 2 M NaCl injection, consistent with previous reports implicating a subset of these regions in osmotically-stimulated drinking and neurohypophyseal secretion. In contrast, other areas of the brain that were activated to express c-Fos in adult rats after 2 M NaCl injection were not activated in neonates: these areas included the central nucleus of the amygdala, the parabrachial nucleus and catecholamine cell groups within the caudal medulla. This study demonstrates that certain brain regions that are osmoresponsive in adult rats (as defined by induced c-Fos expression) are not osmoresponsive in two-day-old rats. When considered in the context of known differences between the osmoregulatory capacities of adult and neonatal rats, our results are consistent with the idea that osmoresponsive forebrain centres are primarily involved in osmotically-stimulated compensatory drinking and neurohypophyseal secretion, whereas osmoresponsive regions of the hindbrain are important for concomitant inhibition of feeding and gastric emptying.