The effects of zoxazolamine (ZOX) and related centrally acting muscle relaxants on striatal dopamine (DA) metabolism and turnover, and substantia nigra zona compacta DA neuronal impulse flow were studied in rats. ZOX, chlorzoxazone and mephenesin, but not meprobamate, chloral hydrate, diazepam, pentobarbital, ethanol or dantrolene, decreased striatal DA metabolism without affecting striatal DA concentrations. More specifically, ZOX, as a representative muscle relaxant, was shown to decrease striatal DA turnover without directly affecting DA synthesis, catabolism, reuptake, or release. ZOX decreased nigral DA neuronal firing rates and dramatically decreased firing rate variability (normally many of the cells fire with bursting firing patterns but after ZOX the cells often fired with a very regular pacemaker-like firing pattern). ZOX and related centrally acting muscle relaxants appear to decrease striatal DA turnover by decreasing both neuronal firing rate and firing rate variability. The possible relationships between DA neuronal activity and muscle tone are discussed.