Electroencephalographic (EEG) responses to corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) as well as CRF concentrations in several brain regions were measured in two lines of rats which have been genetically selected for alcohol preferring (P) or non-preferring (NP) behaviors. Fifteen rats were implanted with chronic electrodes and EEG spectra were evaluated following intracerebroventricular (ICV) administration of CRF (0.15 nmol) or saline. P rats demonstrated a significantly increased EEG response to CRF in the theta frequency range (ANOVA: PREF x DRUG 4-6 Hz, P less than 0.03; 6-8 Hz, P less than 0.05) in frontal cortex. A significantly lower concentration of CRF was found in the P rats in hypothalamus (P less than 0.02), amygdala (P less than 0.003), prefrontal cortex (P less than 0.01), and cingulate cortex (P less than 0.02). The finding that P rats had an increased response to exogenously administered CRF, taken together with decreased CRF concentrations, suggests that CRF receptors may be up-regulated in these animals. Differences in the regulation of CRF neurons may contribute to the expression of behavioral preference for ethanol consumption in these rat lines.