Under anaesthesia, blood loss and deep pain can evoke a premature, centrally-mediated sympathoinhibition leading to decompensated shock and sometimes even death. The central circuits evoking premature vasodepressor syncope are unknown, although medullary catecholaminergic pathways have been implicated. The ventrolateral periaqueductal gray region is one of only three brain regions in which catecholamine content is increased during halothane anaesthesia. The ventrolateral periaqueductal gray also contains neurons which are selectively activated by blood loss and deep pain, and recent work from our laboratory has suggested that it is a pivotal structure in central sympathoinhibitory circuits. Using retrograde tracing techniques combined with the immunohistochemical detection of: (i) the catecholamine synthetic enzyme, tyrosine hydroxylase and (ii) the protein product of the immediate-early gene c-fos as a marker of neuronal activation; the results of this study indicate that catecholaminergic projections from the A1, C1 and C2 regions of the medulla to the ventrolateral periaqueductal gray are activated by halothane anaesthesia. These data are consistent with the hypotheses that ascending catecholaminergic projections to the ventrolateral periaqueductal gray: (i) are a component of the central neural circuitry responsible for the sympathoinhibitory effects of halothane anaesthesia, and (ii) may contribute to the premature elicitation of vasodepressor syncope following blood loss and deep pain under conditions of anaesthesia.