Activation of the cerebral cortex is seen during hallucinations. The 5-HT(2A/C) agonist 1-[2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodophenyl]-2-aminopropane (DOI) is a potent hallucinogen that has been proposed to act by targeting 5-HT(2A) heteroceptors on thalamocortical neurons and eliciting release of glutamate from these cells, which in turn drives cortical neurons. We used in vivo microdialysis to determine if DOI increases extracellular glutamate levels. Systemic administration of DOI significantly increased extracellular glutamate levels in the somatosensory cortex of the freely-moving rat. Similarly, intracortical administration of DOI by reverse dialysis increased cortical extracellular glutamate levels. No consistent changes in either extracellular GABA or glycine levels were observed in response to DOI. The increase in glutamate levels elicited by intracortical DOI was blocked by treatment with the selective 5-HT(2A) antagonist MDL 100,907. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that 5-HT(2A) receptor-mediated regulation of glutamate release is the mechanism through which hallucinogens activate the cerebral cortex.