This series of experiments compared isolation-reared and socially reared rats for their locomotor activity, behavioural stereotypy, and monoamine function both postmortem and in vivo using intracerebral dialysis. In Experiment 1, isolates showed an altered time course of locomotor activity following d-amphetamine sulphate (AMPH) administration (0.5, 2.0, 3.0, or 5.0 mg/kg, SC). Isolation-reared rats also showed increased sensitivity to the sedative effects of a low dose of apomorphine hydrochloride (0.1 mg/kg) but did not differ from social controls following higher doses of the drug (0.5, 1.5, or 3.0 mg/kg, SC). Isolates showed a decrease in the intensity of apomorphine-induced stereotyped behaviours but no change in stereotypy induced by AMPH. In Experiment 2, isolates had higher postmortem dopamine (DA) concentrations and an altered asymmetry in DA function in the medial prefrontal cortex (PFC) but not in the nucleus accumbens (NAC) or caudate putamen (CPu). Isolated rats also had a lower 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA)/5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) ratio in the NAC (but not in the PFC or CPu) compared to controls. Experiment 3 used intracerebral dialysis to examine monoamine function in vivo following isolation rearing. Isolates showed greater increases in extracellular DA and greater decreases in DOPAC in response to 2 mg/kg AMPH SC in both the NAC and CPu. There were no apparent differences in the perfusate concentrations of either dopamine (DA), dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC), or homovanillic acid (HVA) prior to drug administration. However, consistent with the results of Experiment 2, isolates had a reduced basal perfusate concentration of 5-HIAA from the NAC but not from the CPu. Experiment 4 measured postsynaptic DA function in CPu tissue slices following isolation. Isolation rearing did not affect cAMP accumulation in response to stimulation of D1 DA receptors by DA (0, 2.7, 9, or 30 microM). In addition, isolation rearing did not affect the coupling between D1 and D2 receptors, as measured by the increase in cAMP accumulation with 1 microM 2,3,4,5-tetrahydro-7,8-dihydroxy-1-phenyl-1 H-3-benzazepin (SK&F 38393) and its reduction by 10 microM quinperole hydrochloride (LY 171555). These results are discussed in terms of the possible relationship between these neurochemical findings and the behavioural disturbances following isolation rearing of rats.