This study examined in naive or hemiparkinsonian rats the effect of various serotonin 2C (5-HT2C) receptor ligands differing in their intrinsic activity at 5-HT2C receptors on purposeless oral movements, a motor response integrated in the basal ganglia. Intraperitoneal administration of a non-selective [meta-chlorophenylpiperazine (m-CPP) 0.1–3 mg/kg], preferential [S-2-(6-chloro-5-fluoroindol-1-yl)-1-methylethylamine, Ro60-0175, 0.1–3 mg/kg] or selective [(7bR,10aR)-1,2,3,4,8,9,10,10a-octahydro-7bH-cyclopenta-[b][1,4]diazepino[6,7,1hi]indole, WAY163909, 0.3–10 mg/kg] 5-HT2C agonists enhanced oral bouts in naive rats. The 5-HT2C inverse agonists SB206553 [1–20 mg/kg; 5-methyl-1-(3-pyridylcarbamoyl)-1,2,3,5-tetrahydropyrrolo[2,3-f]indole] and S32006 [1–20 mg/kg; N-pyridin-3-yl-1,2-dihydro-3H-benzo[e]indole-3-carboxamide], but not the 5-HT2C antagonist SB243213 [1–10 mg/kg; 5-methyl-1-[[2-[(2-methyl-3-pyridyl)oxy]-5-pyridyl]carbamoyl]-6-trifluoromethylindoline], likewise dose-dependently enhanced oral movements. The effects induced by preferential 5-HT2C agonists and inverse agonists, but not by the cholinomimetic drug pilocarpine (5 mg/kg), were abolished by SB243213 underpinning its specificity. S32006-induced oral bouts was unaffected by the 5,7-dihydroxytryptamine lesions of 5-HT neurons. Nigrostriatal dopaminergic lesions potentiated oral effects induced by the agonists Ro60-0175 (3 mg/kg) and WAY163909 (1 mg/kg), but not by the inverse agonist SB206553 (10 mg/kg). The effect of Ro60-0175 in dopamine-lesioned rats was suppressed by SB243213. These data show that 5-HT2C agonists and full inverse agonists (but not neutral antagonists) perturb oral activity in rodents, paralleling studies of common antidepressant, anxiolytic and antipsychotic properties. The differential sensitivity of their actions to depletion of dopamine suggests recruitment of different contrasting neural mechanisms in the basal ganglia.