Behavioral sensitization can be observed with repeated administration of amphetamine where the intensity of motor stimulation increases over time. The process of sensitization has been well characterized, however, the neurochemical mechanisms that are critical for the development of sensitization are not known. In the present study, the role of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA) in the development of behavioral sensitization to amphetamine was explored by pretreating rats with an intravenous administration of an antiserum to corticotropin-releasing factor in a volume that has been shown to block significantly stress- and cocaine-induced activation of the HPA. Four groups of eight rats were pretreated intravenously with either heparinized saline or CRF antiserum and subcutaneously with saline or d-amphetamine in a balanced design. The rats were then returned to their home cages and left undisturbed for seven days after which they were given three consecutive behavioral tests with saline SC, 0.75 mg/kg d-amphetamine SC, and 3.0 mg/kg d-amphetamine SC. The rats pretreated with intravenous CRF antiserum showed a significant attenuation of the development of d-amphetamine-induced sensitization but the antiserum did not alter the magnitude of the behavioral response to the initial, sensitizing dose of d-amphetamine. These results suggest that activation of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis may be of critical importance to the development of behavioral sensitization to amphetamine.