An increase in the activity of mesencephalic dopaminergic neurons has been implicated in the appearance of pathological behaviors such as psychosis and drug abuse. Several observations suggest that glucocorticoids might contribute to such an increase in dopaminergic activity. The present experiments therefore analyzed the effects of corticosterone, the major glucocorticoid in the rat, both on dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens of freely moving animals by means of microdialysis, and on locomotor activity, a behavior dependent on accumbens dopamine. Given that glucocorticoids have certain state-dependent neuronal effects, their action on dopamine was studied in situations differing in dopaminergic tonus, including during the light and dark phases of the circadian cycle, during eating, and in groups of animals differing in their locomotor reactivity to novelty. Dopaminergic activity is increased in the dark period, further increased during food-intake, and is higher in rats defined as high responders to novelty than in low responders. Corticosterone, peripherally administered in a dose that approximates stress-induced plasma concentrations, increased extracellular concentrations of dopamine, and this increase was augmented in the dark phase, during eating, and in high responder rats. Corticosterone had little or no effects in the light phase and in low responder rats. Corticosterone also stimulated locomotor activity, an effect that paralleled the release of dopamine and was abolished by neurochemical (6-hydroxydopamine) depletion of accumbens dopamine. In conclusion, glucocorticoids have state-dependent stimulant effects on mesencephalic dopaminergic transmission, and an interaction between these two factors might be involved in the appearance of behavioral disturbances.