The newly discovered peptide nociceptin/orphanin FQ has been found to increase reactivity to pain and to influence locomotor activity after intracerebroventricular administration. This study investigated the possible role of hippocampal nociceptin/orphanin FQ in spatial learning and in spontaneous locomotion. Male rats were trained in the Morris water task after microinjection of 10 nmol nociceptin/orphanin FQ or artificial cerebrospinal fluid (as control) into the CA3 region of the dorsal hippocampus. Nociceptin/orphanin FQ was found to severely impair spatial learning without interfering with swimming performance. Intrahippocampal injection of nociceptin/ orphanin FQ markedly decreased exploratory locomotor activity including vertical movements (rearing). The data suggest that nociceptin/orphanin FQ is a potent modulator of synaptic plasticity within the hippocampus.