To examine the neurotoxic effects of domoic acid, an amnesic shellfish toxin, electroencephalographic and behavioural experiments were conducted on 38 rats. Injection of domoic acid (0.5-1.0 mg/kg intravenously, or 0.04-0.08 microgram intraventricularly) caused seizure discharges in the hippocampus, tonic-clonic convulsions, and death within a few days. Convulsions and ensuing death were prevented by diazepam. Animals pretreated with diazepam (5 mg/kg, ip) tolerated intraventricular dose of domoic acid 0.4 microgram, but showed a loss of pyramidal neurons mainly in the CA3, CA4, and a part of CA1 areas of the dorsal hippocampus. Learning of a radial maze task was severely impaired in naive rats after intraventricular injection of domoic acid (and diazepam, ip). In the animals previously trained on the maze task, domoic acid interfered with relearning of the same task. These effects appear similar to those of kainic acid and are analogous to the symptoms observed in humans who ingested mussels tainted with domoic acid.