Intracerebroventricular (icv) infusion of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) was previously found to produce a long-lasting, dose- dependent (0.1–1.0 microgram) increase in the amplitude of the acoustic startle reflex. The present study sought to determine where in the CNS CRF acts to increase startle. Intracisternal infusion of CRF (0.1–1.0 microgram) increased startle with a time course and magnitude similar to that produced by icv CRF, unlike intrathecal infusion, which produced a small, more rapid enhancement of startle. While lesions of the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus had no effect on icv CRF-enhanced startle, bilateral lesions of the central nucleus of the amygdala significantly attenuated the excitatory effect of icv CRF but had no effect on intrathecal CRF-enhanced startle. Even though lesions of the amygdala blocked icv CRF-enhanced startle, local infusion of CRF into the amygdala did not significantly elevate startle. The present data indicate that the amygdala is part of the neural circuitry required for icv CRF to elevate startle, but does not appear to be the primary receptor area where CRF acts. The involvement of the amygdala in icv CRF-enhanced startle is consistent with the hypothesis that both the amygdala and CRF are critically involved in fear and stress.