The concentrations of glutamic and aspartic acids were measured in the dialysate obtained with vertical microdialysis probes implanted into the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus of sexually potent male rats during sexual activity. Animals showed noncontact erections when put in the presence of, and copulated with, a receptive (ovarietomized oestrogen- and progesterone-primed) female rat. The concentrations of glutamic and aspartic acids in the paraventricular dialysate increased by 37 and 80%, respectively, above baseline values during exposure to the receptive female rat and by 55 and 127%, respectively, during copulation. No changes in the concentrations of glutamic and aspartic acids were detected in the paraventricular dialysate when sexually potent male rats were exposed to nonreceptive (ovariectomized not oestrogen- and progesterone-primed) female rats or when impotent male rats were used. The injection into the paraventricular nucleus of the excitatory amino acid receptor antagonist dizocilpine (5 µg), a noncompetitive N-methyl-d-aspartic acid receptor antagonist, reduced noncontact erections and significantly impaired copulatory activity. The α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid receptor antagonist 6-cyano-7-nitro-quinoxaline-2,3-dione (5 µg) was also able to impair copulatory activity, but to a much lower extent than dizocilpine. In contrast, (±)-2-amino-4-phosphono-butanoic acid, a metabotropic receptor antagonist (5 µg), was found to be ineffective. These results confirm the involvement of the paraventricular nucleus in the control of erectile function and copulatory behaviour and show that excitatory amino acid concentration increases in the paraventricular nucleus when penile erection occurs in physiological contexts.