The conditioning of the pharmacological actions of cocaine with environmental stimuli is thought to be a critical factor in the long-term addictive potential of this drug. Cocaine-related stimuli may increase the likelihood of relapse by evoking drug craving, and brain-imaging studies have identified the amygdala and nucleus accumbens (NAcc) as putative neuroanatomical substrates for these effects of cocaine cues. To study the significance of environmental stimuli in the recovery of extinguished cocaine-seeking behavior, male Wistar rats were trained to associate discriminative stimuli (SDeltas) with response-contingent availability of intravenous cocaine vs. saline. The rats then were subjected to repeated extinction sessions during which cocaine, saline, and the respective SDeltas were withheld until the animals reached an extinction criterion of =4 responses over three consecutive sessions. Subsequent re-exposure to the cocaine SDelta, but not the nonreward SDelta, produced strong recovery of responding at the previously active lever in the absence of any further drug availability. The efficacy and behavioral selectivity of the cocaine SDelta remained unaltered throughout an 8-day test period. Exposure to the cocaine SDelta significantly increased dopamine efflux in the NAcc and amygdala as measured by intracranial microdialysis in a separate group of rats. Dopamine levels remained unaltered in the presence of the nonreward SDelta. The results demonstrate that cocaine-predictive stimuli elicit robust and persistent cocaine-seeking behavior, and that this effect may involve activation of dopamine transmission in the NAcc and amygdala.