Whereas the role of dopaminergic tone in the cortico-striatal-thalamic system is well-established, the role of endogenous opioids in the function of this system is less understood. We show that Borna disease virus infection of adult rats results in an increase in preproenkephalin transcripts in the striatum of Borna-infected rats, a region important for forming coordinated sequential motor actions and in developing programmes of thought and motivation. Stereotypic behaviours and dyskinesias, the clinical hallmarks of infection in adult Lewis rats (BD rats), are accompanied by a disrupted pattern of immediate early gene c-fos activation in the motor thalamus, with significance for the breakdown in coordinated sequential motor actions. We also find increased preproenkephalin in infected cultured neuroblastoma and rat foetal glial cells. The expression pattern of enkephalin mRNA in vivo and in vitro suggest that increased enkephalin function is one of the neuropharmacological means by which Borna disease virus causes motor disease of animals and possibly cognitive and affective disease in man, and further suggest that enkephalins play a critical role in the maintenance of a balanced tone of activity in the cortico-basal ganglia-thalamo-cortical loops.