Abnormal activity in corticolimbic circuits during development may be a predisposing factor for schizophrenia. Permanent or temporary lesions of limbic structures such as the ventral hippocampus and basolateral amygdala in rats on postnatal day (PND) 7 result in functional changes similar to some behavioural and cognitive signs of schizophrenia. The present experiments tested whether transient increases in the neural activity of corticolimbic circuits on PND 7 would result in similar behavioural changes. Long-Evans rats were treated with either kainic acid (KA, 1.5 mg/kg, i.p.) or saline on PND 7 and tested for prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the acoustic startle response and spontaneous locomotor activity both in a novel environment and following amphetamine treatment before puberty (PND 35) and in early adulthood (PND 56). In subgroups of animals PPI was also measured following apomorphine administration (0.2 mg/kg) and spatial learning and memory were tested in the water maze. Rats treated with KA were indistinguishable from saline-treated animals on PND 35. However, on PND 56, KA-treated animals showed a subtle consistent decrease in PPI relative to control animals, but did not show increased sensitivity to the disruptive effects of a low dose of apomorphine on PPI. Locomotor responses to novelty or amphetamine were not reliably altered in the KA-treated animals. KA- and saline-treated animals performed similarly in the water maze. These results support the hypothesis that neural hyperactivity on PND 7 in rats causes behavioural changes in early adulthood that resemble some symptoms of schizophrenia. These pharmacological data suggest that the changes are not mediated by postsynaptic alterations in mesolimbic dopamine transmission.