We used extracellular recordings to examine the central pathway whereby electrical stimulation of abdominal vagal afferents elevates arterial pressure in the rabbit. Bulbospinal neurons in the rostral ventrolateral medulla were identified by antidromic activation from the dorsolateral funiculus of the thoracic spinal cord. Their barosensitivity was assessed by their response to intravenous phenylephrine and by their cardiac cycle-related rhythmicity. We used peristimulus histogram procedures to assess the effect of electrical stimulation of abdominal vagal afferents on the discharge rate of these neurons. Electrical stimulation (one to three pulses) activated 98 of 123 neurons tested (80%), had no effect on 22 neurons (18%) and inhibited the remaining three neurons. Latency to peak excitation was 228 ± 3 ms, indicating that the conduction velocity of the vagal afferents was about 0.6 m/s, in the unmyelinated fibre range. Lower oesophageal distension with a balloon excited 22 of 48 neurons (46%), inhibited 12 neurons (25%) and had no effect on the remaining 14 cells (29%). Vagally induced excitation was reduced by aortic depressor nerve stimulation in nine of 13 neurons. Lightly touching the animal's back and legs had no effect on 56 of 60 neurons. Nociceptive stimuli failed to affect 47 of 60 neurons tested. No excitation was seen with electrical stimulation of the sciatic or central ear nerves. Our study identifies a robust excitatory input from the abdominal vagus to bulbospinal barosensitive neurons in the rostral ventrolateral medulla. Relevant physiological stimuli include lower oesophageal distension. The pathways may be relevant to cardiovascular changes which accompany upper gastrointestinal function.