We have recently reported that behavioural sensitization to morphine, amphetamine, cocaine and nicotine is associated with an increased response of dialysate dopamine to the same drugs in the nucleus accumbens core and/or a reduced response in the shell. Prolonged exposure to stressful stimuli also induces behavioural sensitization to drugs of abuse. We therefore investigated the effect of different drugs of abuse on behaviour and on dopamine transmission in the nucleus accumbens shell and core of rats stressed by 1 week schedule of food restriction. Food-restricted rats (80% of their initial body weight) were implanted with microdialysis probes in the nucleus accumbens shell and core and challenged with cocaine (5 and 10 mg/kg i.p.), amphetamine (0.25 and 0.5 mg/kg s.c.), morphine (1 and 2 mg/kg s.c.), nicotine (0.2 and 0.4 mg/kg s.c.) and the changes in dialysate dopamine transmission were monitored together with the behaviour. Food restricted rats showed strong behavioural sensitization to cocaine and amphetamine but not to morphine or nicotine as compared to ad libitum fed controls. Behavioural sensitization to psychostimulants was associated with an increased response of dialysate dopamine in the core and with an unchanged or even reduced response in the shell. No significant differences were observed between controls and food-restricted animals in the ability of morphine and nicotine to stimulate dopamine transmission in the shell and core. The present results indicate that a sensitized dopamine response in the nucleus accumbens core is a general feature of the expression of behavioural sensitization.