Circuits involving major afferents to the ventral striatum from the frontal cortex, amygdala and hippocampus have been implicated in the selective processing of conditioned stimuli predictive of 'important events' or reward-related processes. We utilized an animal model of event-related potentials (ERPs) to explore the relationship between these brain areas during the performance of a conditioning/extinction task. Significant reductions in the N1 component in cortex and P2 component in amygdala of the rat ERP were found as a consequence of removal of the food reward previously associated with the stimuli. Lesions of the nucleus basalis magnocellularis were without effect on the pattern of ERP morphology changes associated with the removal of the reward. Since the N1 component of the ERP has been linked to attentional processes, these studies suggest that elimination of reward characteristics of conditioning stimuli can lead to a specific reductions in 'attention' and or 'sensory reaction' in frontal cortex and amygdala but not to general habituation to these stimuli or in other areas of the CNS.