Reticulospinal (RS) neurones integrate sensory inputs from several modalities to generate appropriate motor commands for maintaining body orientation and initiation of locomotion in lampreys. As in other vertebrates, trigeminal afferents convey sensory inputs from the head region. The in vitro brainstem/spinal cord preparation of the lamprey was used for characterizing trigeminal inputs to RS neurones as well as the transmitter systems involved. The trigeminal nerve on each side was electrically stimulated and synaptic responses, which consisted of mixed excitation and inhibition, were recorded intracellularly in the middle and posterior rhombencephalic reticular nuclei. The EPSPs were mediated by activation of alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA)/kainate receptors. An increase in the late phase of the excitatory response occurred when Mg2+ ions were removed from the Ringer's solution. This effect was antagonized by 2-amino-5-phosphonopentanoate (2-AP5) or reversed by restoring Mg2+ ions to the perfusate suggesting the activation of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. IPSPs were mediated by glycine. These findings are similar to those reported for other types of sensory inputs conveyed to RS neurones, where excitatory and inhibitory amino acid transmission is also involved.