Stress-induced expression of immediate early genes (IEGs) appears to be transient even if the exposure to the stressor persists. However, there are some exceptions which suggest that particular characteristics of stressors can affect the dynamics of IEG expression. We studied in selected telencephalic, diencephalic and brainstem regions the mRNA levels of two clearly distinct IEGs (c-fos and arc) during prolonged exposure to a severe stressor such as immobilization (IMO) and after releasing the rats from the situation. Although regional differences were observed with the two IEGs, overall, c-fos mRNA levels progressively declined over the course of 4 h of continuous exposure to IMO, whereas arc mRNA levels were maintained at high levels in the brain regions that express this gene under stress (telencephalon). Levels of CRF hnRNA in the hypothalamus paraventricular nucleus only slightly declined during prolonged exposure to IMO. Surprisingly, termination of exposure to IMO did not modify CRF gene expression in the paraventricular nucleus or the pattern of IEGs expression, with the exception of c-fos in the lateral septum. Thus, putative signals associated to the termination of exposure to IMO were unable to modify either IEG expression in most brain areas or CRF gene expression in the paraventricular nucleus.