The excitability of cholinergic, glutamatergic and dopaminergic elements within the rat neostriatum was studied in both in vivo and in vitro preparations. In vivo, the microdialysis technique was used to measure the release of striatal acetylcholine and dopamine under basal and electrically evoked conditions. For comparison, acetylcholine, dopamine and glutamate release was assayed in media obtained from superfused rat striatal slices. Electrical stimulation was used to derive the strength-duration functions and their chronaxies of stimulated elements containing the three neurotransmitter types. The chonaxies for experiments in vitro and in vivo were similar: the chronaxy values for elements containing acetylcholine were the shortest, the values for glutamate were intermediate, and the values for those containing dopamine were the longest. Based on the chronaxy estimates, it is proposed that the elements containing acetylcholine are the large cholinergic interneurons of striatum, and the elements containing glutamate and dopamine are the terminals of corticostriatal and nigrostriatal neurons, respectively. These results indicate that electrical stimulation of neural elements surrounding a microdialysis probe can be an additional tool to examine the factors that regulate neurotransmitter release. Likewise, investigators can activate specific striatal elements by using pulse durations that coincide with their chronaxies.