In the present normal anatomical light and electron microscopic study in the rat, histochemical (Nissl, Timm, Golgi) or immunocytochemical (microtubule-associated protein type 2, glutamate decarboxylase, glutamate receptor subunit 1, synaptophysin) stains were used to analyse neurons embedded within the stria terminalis and their associated neuropil. These cells are closely related to the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and the centromedial amygdala, and have been termed the "supracapsular part of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis". The largest part of this neuronal complex is located in the ventrolateral part of the stria, where it appears as a round or oval "lateral pocket" in virtually any type of light microscopic preparation because of its collection of neuronal cell bodies and dense neuropil, in addition to a lacework of unmyelinated axons. A much smaller but still distinct "medial pocket" is located in the medial corner of the stria. The large lateral subdivision of the supracapsular stria terminalis is directly continuous with the lateral bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and extends to the central amygdaloid nucleus, containing a column of neurons that is only broken up into cell clusters at the most caudal levels of the stria as it drops vertically toward the amygdala. The considerably smaller medial subdivision appears, in turn, to be directly continuous with the medial part of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. The medial column tapers off more rapidly than the lateral part, so that as the middle levels are approached, only small interrupted clusters of cells are seen. Solitary neurons can also be found in practically every part of the stria terminalis except among the ventrally located axons of the commissural component. Most of the neurons are small to medium in size, as viewed in transverse sections of the stria, but larger neurons are also encountered. In sections parallel to the stria, many neurons are fusiform in appearance. The dendrites are often aligned in a longitudinal fashion; many of the dendrites related to the cells in the lateral pocket are moderately to densely spined, whereas those in the medial pocket are more sparsely spined. The neuropil in both the lateral and medial pockets is characterized by boutons, bundles of unmyelinated axons, and dendrites. Based on their vesicle content, the boutons are divided into three major types: (A) round or slightly oval, agranular vesicles of uniform size; (B) pleomorphic, agranular vesicles, many of which are flattened; and (C) pleomorphic agranular vesicles, some of which are considerably larger than the ones in type B boutons. Type A boutons establish contacts with both dendritic spines and shafts, whereas types B and C usually contact dendritic shafts and sometimes somata. These synaptic components are similar to those described earlier for the central and medial amygdaloid nuclei. Overall, our results support the contention advanced in 1923 by Johnston [J. comp. Neurol. 35, 337481] that the cells accompanying the stria terminalis are interconnecting columns of a macrostructure encompassing the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and centromedial amygdala. More recently, it has been appreciated that columns of neurons below the globus pallidus also belong to this macrostructure [Alheid G. F. et al. (1995) In The Rat Nervous System, 2nd edn, pp. 495 578, Academic, San Diego; de Olmos J. S. et al. (1985) In The Rat Nervous System, pp. 223-334, Academic, Sydney], which has been named the "extended amygdala".