Neuronal background activity was investigated in a hemisegment of the lumbar section of the spinal cord before and after addition of serotonin (5-HT - 1 × 10-8-10-4 M) in 14- to 22-day-old rats. Reversible changes in background firing rate were recorded in 50% and 70.6% of dorsal and ventral horn interneurons respectively. Excitatory response predominated; in the dorsal horn, 62.4% of all cells responding to 5-HT showed an excitatory response, 8.4% an inhibitory reaction, and 29.2% a two-stage response. In the ventral horn, an excitatory and two-stage response were recorded in 91.6% and 8.4% of cells respectively. Application of 5-HT induced an increase in firing rate and depolarization in the ventral horn. Findings from this study would point to a primarily excitatory effect of 5-HT on background in segmental neurons.