We examined the effects of dexamethasone administration and withdrawal on regional cerebral blood flow (CBF) and the permeability surface area (PS) product for water in the central nervous system of conscious rats. There were no significant changes in CBF. Dexamethasone treatment produced a significant decrease in the PS product for water in the cerebral cortex, while withdrawal of dexamethasone resulted in a significant increase. Water content of the cerebral cortex was also increased in rats from which dexamethasone had been withdrawn. These findings may help in understanding the pathogenesis of brain swelling in some patients.