The neurochemical basis of behavioral changes following medial frontal cortex damage were investigated. Experiment 1 examined locomotion in response to D-amphetamine (1.5 and 5 mg/kg) in rats that had received bilateral aspirative lesions of the medial frontal cortex alone or in combination with 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) lesions of the nucleus accumbens or caudate-putamen. Relative to controls, medial frontal cortex rats were initially hypoactive (day 1 postoperative) but rapidly became hyperactive (days 5-15 postoperative). Locomotor-time profiles and stereotypy ratings showed that amphetamine produced a selective enhancement of locomotion at the expense of stereotyped behavior. Nucleus accumbens lesions blocked the locomotion but enhanced stereotyped behavior in the medial frontal cortex damaged rats, suggesting that amphetamine-enhanced locomotion is dependent upon the integrity of the nucleus accumbens. In Experiment 2, intracerebral microdialysis was used to examine whether alterations in dopamine (DA) or monoamine metabolites in the nucleus accumbens or caudate-putamen accompanied the lesion-induced changes in locomotion. There were no differences in extracellular DA or monoamine levels between control rats and medial frontal cortex rats when tested on day 1 or day 15 postsurgery, either when they were at rest, while they walked on a motor-driven belt, or after amphetamine treatment. Therefore, it seems unlikely that changes in amphetamine-induced locomotion following medial frontal cortex lesions are related to underlying modifications in dopaminergic activity in the nucleus accumbens. It is suggested that neural structures compete for behavioral expression and that postlesion behavioral alterations reveal the competitive advantage of remaining intact neural systems.