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Rats given near-total dopamine-depleting brain lesions as neonates exhibit none of the severe sensorimotor or ingestive dysfunctions that result when adult rats are given comparable lesions. These experiments showed that the apparent sparing of function is incomplete; when tested as adults, the brain-damaged animals did not eat in response to acute glucoprivation, nor did they drink water and saline in response to hypovolemia. Indeed, after receiving these homeostatic challenges, the animals became much less able to simply move about. In contrast to these marked effects, the dopamine-depleted rats ate normally after glucoprivation when they were handled hourly instead of being left alone. Similarly, administration of caffeine permitted them to drink while hypovolemic. These and other observations suggest that some central neurons other than those containing dopamine are responsible for maintaining behavioral activation in rats after neonatal destruction of dopaminergic fiber systems in the brain and that the homeostatic challenges compromise their function and thereby disrupt behavior.