Microinjection of carbachol into the rostral pontine tegmentum of the cat induces a state that is comparable to naturally occurring active (REM, rapid eye movement) sleep. We sought to determine, during this pharmacologically induced behavioral state, which we refer to as active sleep-carbachol, the distribution of activated neuron within the pons and medulla using c-fos immunocytochemistry as a functional marker. Compared with control cats, which were injected with saline, active sleep-carbachol cats exhibited higher numbers of c-fos-expressing neurons in (1) the medial and portions of the lateral reticular formation of the pons and medulla, (2) nuclei in the dorsolateral rostral pons, (3) various raphe nuclei, including the dorsal, central superior, magnus, pallidus, and obscurus, (4) the medial and lateral vestibular, prepositus hypoglossi, and intercalatus nuclei, and (5) the abducens nuclei. On the other hand, the mean number of c-fos-expressing neurons found in the masseter, facial, and hypoglossal nuclei was lower in carbachol-injected than in control cats. The data indicate that c- fos expression can be employed as a marker of state-dependent neuronal activity. The specific sites in which there were greater numbers of c- fos-expressing neurons during active sleep-carbachol are discussed in relation to the state of active sleep, as well as the functional role that these sites play in generating the various physiological patterns of activity that occur during this state.