The relations between behavior, olfactory input (monitored by recording the activity of the olfactory mucosa), and the spontaneous field potentials of the dentate gyrus were studied in freely moving rats. Bursts of 30-80 Hz (gamma) waves were elicited in the dentate gyrus when a rat sniffed at a variety of objects but were not elicited by auditory, somesthetic, or visual inputs and were not related to the occurrence of locomotion. The presence of gamma wave activity was associated with an enhancement of the population spike elicited in the dentate gyrus by stimulation of the perforant path. Odorized air blown into a nostril via a cannula, inserted under light urethane anesthesia, elicited a gamma wave response bilaterally in the dentate gyrus. These and other data were reviewed to support the general hypothesis that the hippocampus is primarily an olfacto-motor mechanism and does not play any unique role in learning and memory, cognitive mapping, or emotion. The role of the hippocampus in the control of some forms of motor activity is supported by numerous anatomical and electrophysiological studies, studies of the effect of hippocampal lesions on behavior, and studies of the effects of electrical or chemical stimulation of the hippocampus on behavior.