Dumuis and colleagues (1988) in their investigation of a 5-HT receptor positively linked to adenylate cyclase in the central nervous system, concluded that the receptor was not 5-HT1, 5-HT2, or 5-HT3 like and suggested that it belonged to a new class of 5-HT receptor called 5-HT4. A similar, if not identical receptor was located by Craig and Clark (1990) in the guinea pig ileum and a functional role for the peripheral 5-HT4 receptor has since been established in many species to mediate muscle contraction or relaxation within the gut and positive inotropic effects in the heart. In contrast, a functional role for central 5-HT4 receptors has remained obscure. Using measurements of rodent behaviour in the mouse light and dark test box and rat social interaction, anxiolytic agents such as diazepam and putative anxiolytic agents such as the 5-HT1A and 5-HT3 receptor ligands 8-OH-DPAT and low doses of tropisetron release behaviour suppressed by the aversive situation. 5-Hydroxytryptophan has the opposite effect exacerbating the behavioural response to the aversive situation. But an anxiolytic profile is revealed by co-treatment with ritanserin plus 5-hydroxytryptophan. The drug-induced anxiolytic profiles are inhibited by SDZ205–557 and a high dose of tropisetron. Both compounds are 5-HT3/5-HT4, receptor antagonists yet the selective 5-HT3 receptor antagonist ondansetron fails to inhibit the drug-induced anxiolytic profiles. The data are interpreted to indicate that 5-HT has the ability to both inhibit and disinhibit behavioural responding to an aversive situation and that a significant component of the anxiolytic action of certain drug treatments is mediated via the 5-HT4 receptor. The experiments provide the first evidence of the pharmacological relevance of the central 5-HT4 receptor to modify behaviour.