When applied by microiontophoresis, substance P (sP) had a strong, but slow and prolonged excitatory action on nearly half the neurones tested in the lumbar spinal cord of cats. Motoneuronal antidromic field potentials only occasionally showed a significant effect of sP. Cerebral cortical neurones in cats and rats were much less readily excited than spinal interneurones. Some unresponsive units showed evidence of a depressant effect of sP. Although sP may have a significant function in central afferent pathways, it is not likely to be a quickly-acting synaptic transmitter.