The possible relation between changes in behaviour and the development of hypertension was investigated. Depletion of striatal dopamine by lesions in the substantia nigra of Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats (SHR) was associated with an inhibition of the development of hypertension. In the open field a decrease in rearing score was found with no effect on other parameters. Rearing activity was significantly correlated with blood pressure as well as with striatal dopamine content. Blood pressure was weakly, although significantly, correlated with striatal dopamine content. Neither blood pressure nor striatal dopamine content was significantly correlated with ambulation activity. In normotensive Wistar-Kyoto rats a decrease was also found in rearing activity after nigra lesions, although this effect was less pronounced. Antihypertensive treatment of SHR with captopril or hydralazine did neither affect striatal dopamine levels nor open-field behaviour. Induction of renal hypertension or DOCA-salt hypertension in Wistar rats did not influence brain dopamine or behaviour. The results support the suggestion that brain dopamine systems may play a role in the development of hypertension in SHR as well as in the changes in behaviour observed in these rats. Changes in behaviour do not appear to be mediated by changes in blood pressure per se.