Subcutaneous injection of a dilute formaldehyde solution (5 or 10%) into a hind paw induced, in the majority of rats, the appearance of ‘mirror pain’: licking the contralateral untreated hind paw 10–60 min after injection. Contralateral licking activity was much less frequent than the ipsilaterally directed one, but the overall intensities of the two responses were positively correlated. Qualitatively, the two behaviours were similar. Functional activity levels of the lumbar spinal cord, as revealed by the 2-deoxyglucose (2-DG) technique, were increased bilaterally over the first hour after unilateral hind limb formalin injection in unanesthetized, freely moving rats. The enhancement of the [14C]2-DG uptake could be detected both in dorsal and ventral horns, as well as in the gray matter surrounding the central canal, and the anterolateral and dorsolateral funiculi. These metabolic changes may reflect an enhancement of the functional activity of both interneuronal pools and units projecting to supraspinal centers, giving rise to a referred contralateral pain.