The role of octopamine (OA) in the feeding system of the pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis, was studied by applying behavioural tests on intact animals, and a combination of electrophysiological analysis and morphological labelling in the isolated central nervous system. OA antagonists phentolamine, demethylchlordimeform (DCDM) and 2–chloro–4–methyl–2–(phenylimino)–imidazolidine (NC–7) were injected into intact snails and the sucrose–induced feeding response of animals was monitored. Snails that received 25–50 mg kg-1 phentolamine did not start feeding in sucrose, and the same dose of NC–7 reduced the number of feeding animals by 80–90% 1–3 hours after injection. DCDM treatment reduced feeding by 20–60%. In addition, both phentolamine and NC–7 significantly decreased the feeding rate of those animals that still accepted food after 1–6 hours of injection. In the central nervous system a pair of buccal neurons was identified by electrophysiological and morphological criteria. After double labelling (intracellular staining with Lucifer yellow followed by OA–immunocytochemistry) these neurons were shown to be OA immunoreactive, and electrophysiological experiments confirmed that they are members of the buccal feeding system. Therefore the newly identified buccal neurons were called OC neurons (putative OA containing neurons or OAergic cells). Synchronous intracellular recordings demonstrated that the OC neurons share a common rhythm with feeding neurons either appearing spontaneously or evoked by intracellularly stimulated feeding interneurons. OC neurons also have synaptic connections with identified members of the feeding network: electrical coupling was demonstrated between OC neurons and members of the B4 cluster motoneurons, furthermore, chemically transmitted synaptic responses were recorded both on feeding motoneurons (B1, B2 cells) and the SO modulatory interneuron after the stimulation of OC neurons. However, elementary synaptic potentials could not be recorded on the follower cells of OC neurons. Prolonged (20 to 30 s) intracellular stimulation of OC cells activated the buccal feeding neurons leading to rhythmic activity pattern (fictive feeding) in a way similar to OA applied by perfusion onto isolated central nervous system (CNS) preparations. Our results suggest that OA acts as a modulatory substance in the feeding system of Lymnaea stagnalis and the newly identified pair of OC neurons belongs to the buccal feeding network.