Abstract The effects of acute and chronic toluene exposure on the hypnotic effect, the righting reflex latencies and the blood and tissue toluene contents were studied in rats during development. The data showed a progressive significant prolongation of the hypnotic effect latencies until the third and fourth postnatal weeks, followed by a significant continuous declining trend until the eighth week postpartum. The measure of the righting reflex latencies followed an opposite temporal course compared to that of hypnotic effect measurements. The acute and chronic toluene exposure did not reveal significant differences in toluene concentrations of blood, brain and liver tissues. The data suggest that chronic toluene treatment may probably be inducing behavioral manifestations of a tolerance phenomenon combined with maturational influences in the developing rat.