Abstract A simple and sensitive method for the simultaneous measurement of 5-hydroxytryptamine and its main metabolite 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid in rat brain is described. Brain tissue samples were only deproteinated and, without further extraction, were injected directly onto a high-performance liquid chromatography column and detected electrochemically. The detection limit for 5-hydroxytryptamine and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid was 16 and 8 g per injection, respectively. Within 8 min, the total separation of 5-hydroxytryptamine and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid is achieved. With this method over 100 analyses can be performed in a single working day. Brain samples from young and old, male and female Brown Norway rats were analysed for indoles by this method. The ratio 5-hydroxytryptamine/5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid, an index for serotonin turnover, showed significant differences between age groups and genders in the cortex, and a significant difference between genders in the hypothalamus.