Electrical stimulation (ten pulses of 0.5 ms, 10 V applied over 10 s at 10 Hz, 140 pA) delivered bilaterally to the prefrontal cortex or the parafascicular thalamic nucleus of freely moving rats facilitated acetylcholine release in dorsal striata, assessed by trans-striatal microdialysis. The facilitatory effects were blocked by coperfusion with 5 μM tetrodotoxin, suggesting that the release was of neuronal origin. The response of the striatal cholinergic neurons to prefrontal cortical stimulation was short-lived and required a longer period of stimulation (20 min) than the response to thalamic stimulation (4 min) to reach maximal effect. The α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid (AMPA)/kainate glutamatergic receptor antagonist 6,7-dinitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione [DNQX; 12 nmol per side, intracerebroventricularly (i.c.v.)] and the AMPA antagonist 6-nitro-7-sulphamoylbenzo(f)quinoxaline-2,3-dione (NBQX; 12 nmol per side, i.c.v. or 12.8 μM infused into the striatum), but not the NMDA-type receptor antagonist MK-801 (0.2 mg/kg, i.p.), abolished the facilitatory effect on striatal acetylcholine release evoked by stimulation of the prefrontal cortex. By contrast, DNQX or NBQX did not prevent the increase in striatal acetylcholine release evoked by parafascicular nucleus stimulation, but MK-801, in accordance with previous results, did so. MK-801 by itself lowered striatal acetylcholine output while DNQX and NBQX did not. The results provide in vivo evidence that the cerebral cortex facilitates cholinergic activity in the dorsal striatum apparently through the non-tonic activation of AMPA-type glutamatergic receptors while the parafascicular nucleus does this through tonic activation of NMDA receptors. Both glutamate receptor types are probably located in the striatum. The overall results suggest that the two pathways operate independently to regulate striatal cholinergic activity through distinct mechanisms.