1. The aim of this study was to investigate the sensitivity of pain- related potentials used in experimental pain models to the non-specific effects of the tranquilizer diazepam. Pain-related potentials were recorded after painful stimulation of the nasal mucosa with CO2 and after painful stimulation of the tooth pulp. Acoustically evoked potentials were measured in order to compare their sensitivity to the tranquilizer diazepam with the sensitivity of the pain-related potentials. 2. Twenty volunteers participated in this randomised, double-blind, three-fold crossover study. Measurements were obtained before and 20 min after the administration of the drug. Event-related potentials were recorded after painful stimulation of the nasal mucosa with CO2 (two stimulus intensities: 60% v/v and 70% v/v CO2), after painful stimulation of the tooth pulp (two stimulus intensities: 2.2 × and 3.3 × detection threshold), and after non-painful acoustical stimulation of the right ear. The subjects rated the perceived intensity of the painful stimuli by means of a visual analogue scale. In addition the spontaneous EEG was analysed in the frequency domain and the vigilance of the subjects was assessed in a tracking task. 3. Diazepam reduced significantly the amplitudes of the event-related potentials after painful stimulation of the tooth pulp and after acoustical stimulation. In contrast only a small, statistically non- significant reduction could be found after painful stimulation with CO2. The pain ratings of the painful stimuli were not affected by diazepam. Diazepam reduced the performance of the tracking task. A decrease of arousal could be found in the alpha 2-range, whereas in the beta 2 and the theta-range the power density increased under diazepam. 4. We demonstrated that event-related potentials after painful stimulation of the nasal mucosa with CO2 are less affected by the nonspecific effects of the tranquilizer diazepam than event-related potentials after painful stimulation of the tooth pulp. The effects of diazepam on the tracking task, the spontaneous EEG and the event- related potentials clearly confirm its sedative properties. Diazepam had no analgesic effect measurable by pain intensity estimates.