The present study examined the effects of activating GABA(A) receptors in the anterior and posterior regions of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) on operant reinforcement behavior, using the technique of intracranial self-administration. Rats were given the opportunity to self-administer vehicle alone (artificial CSF) and vehicle containing 25, 50, and 100 microM muscimol, a GABA(A) agonist, into the anterior or posterior VTA during four sessions (3 h/session) in standard two-lever operant chambers. Rats received five times greater infusions of 50 and 100 microM muscimol than vehicle into the posterior VTA; both doses significantly increased responding above vehicle levels on the active and inactive (control) levers equally. When the response requirement for muscimol infusions was increased from a fixed-ratio 1 (FR1) to FR3 in a single-lever chamber, the total session responses increased approximately twofold. Muscimol was not self-infused when cannula placements were in the anterior VTA. The self-infusion of muscimol into the posterior VTA was attenuated by coadministration of picrotoxin. Overall, the results suggest that the activation of GABA(A) receptors in the posterior VTA produces goal-directed behavior.