Octopamine and synephrine were observed to effect the spontaneous rhythmic contractions displayed by the isolated ventral nerve cord of the earthworm, Lumbricus terrestris. octopamine and synephrine produced dose-dependent significant changes in the frequency, amplitude and basal tonus of the spontaneous contractions. Application of adrenergic receptor antagonists suggested the octopamine receptors to have some similarity to vertebrate alpha 1-adrenergic receptors. The spontaneous contractions were not abolished by tetrodotoxin (TTX) which suggested a myogenic origin for the contraction of the ventral nerve cord sheath muscles. Octopamine, in the presence of TTX, increased the basal tonus and maximum force of the spontaneous contractions.