The magnocellular preoptic nucleus of the rat supplies centrifugal input to the olfactory bulb as well as projecting to other olfactory-related areas. The extent to which the piriform and entorhinal cortices can influence the activity of magnocellular preoptic neurons and hence that of the olfactory bulb were examined using intracellular in vivo recording. Stable recordings were obtained in 58 neurons impaled in the magnocellular preoptic nucleus. Antidromic responses occurred on stimulating olfactory bulb (15), piriform cortex (14), or entorhinal area (eight). Monosynaptic excitation was evoked by piriform (27 of 37 tested) and entorhinal cortex (15 of 32 tested) stimulation with polysynaptic inhibition occurring in seven and five neurons, respectively. Polysynaptic as well as antidromic excitation by olfactory bulb stimulation occurred in four; a further 28 tested responded polysynaptically. No response to olfactory bulb stimulation was monosynaptic. In stable impalements, 29 neurons discharged spontaneously in the absence of applied current. Lucifer Yellow and Neurobiotin were used to label 16 cells. All but one had smooth dendrites with soma diameters ranging from 8 to 24 microm. These results provide a framework in which magnocellular preoptic neurons can influence olfactory processing by direct action on the olfactory bulb, which action can be boosted by positive feedback from the bulb through the olfactory piriform and entorhinal cortices.