Systemic injection of the organometal neurotoxin trimethyltin (TMT) into rats causes impairments in learning and memory. However, there is a discontinuity in dose-response functions, such that the deficit which emerges with a higher, acutely toxic dose, is qualitatively different from the impairment induced after lower doses. To investigate synaptic receptor changes associated with behavioral deficits, neurotransmitter-receptor ligand binding assays were done in forebrain areas of rats given TMT (3.6 or 7.5 mg/kg). Binding of the beta-adrenergic ligand, dihydroalprenolol in frontal cortex and amygdala/pyriform cortex was an inverted U-shaped function of TMT dose, with rats given the median dose exhibiting increased binding. The curvilinear dose-response functions in behavioral and biochemical assays suggest that altered forebrain noradrenergic neurotransmission could play a role in behavioral deficits.