Long-term behavioral effects, changes in learning and memory functions and aberrations of cholinergic fibers projecting to the parietal cortex were investigated after bilateral injections of beta-amyloid(Phe(SO3H)24)25-35 peptide in rat nucleus basalis magnocellularis (nbm). The beta-amyloid peptide used in these experiments contained the original beta-amyloid 25-35 sequence which was coupled to a phenylalanine-sulphonate group at position 24. This additional residue serves as a protective cap on the molecule without influencing its neurotoxic properties and results in water-solubility, stability and low rates of peptide metabolism. In this paper, home cage, locomotor and open-field activities, passive shock-avoidance and 'Morris' water maze learning abilities were assessed throughout a 35-day survival period. Subsequently, acetylcholinesterase (AChE) histochemistry was used to visualize alterations of parietal cortical cholinergic innervation. In response to the neurotoxic action of beta-amyloid(Phe(SO3H)24)25-35, a progressive hyperactivity developed in the rats in their home cages which were maintained throughout the 5-week post-injection period. This was accompanied by a significant hypoactivity in the novel environment of a locomotor arena. Beta-amyloid(Phe(SO3H)24)25-35-treated animals showed greatly impaired cortical memory functions in the step-through passive shock-avoidance paradigm, while spatial learning processes remained unaffected. Moreover, beta-amyloid(Phe(SO3H)24)25-35 injections in the nucleus basalis suppressed explorative behavior in rats and inhibited conditioned stress responses 28 days after surgery. Reductions of cortical cholinergic (AChE-positive) projections provided anatomical substrate for the behavioral changes. This indicated extensive, long-lasting neurodegenerative processes as a result of beta-amyloid(Phe(SO3H)24)25-35 infusion.