The action of phenytoin was studied in acute experiments in rats with brainstem transection at the midcollicular level. Symmetrical epileptogenic foci were elicited in sensorimotor cortical areas of both hemispheres by local application of penicillin. Seven rats formed a control group, ten animals were pretreated with phenytoin (60 mg/kg i.p., 10 min before penicillin application). Synchronization of interictal discharges in control rats was delayed in comparison to animals with an intact brainstem; phenytoin did not influence this synchronization. Spontaneous transition of interictal into ictal activity was not abolished by phenytoin, i.e. in cerveau isolé preparations phenytoin lost this activity. The loss of anticonvulsant activity was not complete. Ictal episodes were modified; they started as very short ones and their duration progressively increased. Structures localized below the level of transection represent a site of at least one of the mechanisms of phenytoin anticonvulsant action.