We are interested in identifying the pathways which are responsible for triggering the conditioned enhancement of natural killer (NK) cell activity. Earlier studies have suggested that central opioid(s) are involved in eliciting the expression of the conditioned NK cell activity. The purpose of this study was to identify the central opioid peptides that allow the central nervous system (CNS) to communicate with the immune system. Mediators that activate the efferent pathway of communication between the CNS and immune system was examined by injection of the mediator via the cisterna magna (CM). Conditioning was used as a tool to show that the bi-directional communication between the CNS and the immune system does take place. We found that β-endorphin but not dynorphin could stimulate NK cell activity, when β-endorphin or dynorphin was injected into the CM. In addition, when anti-β-endorphin or anti-dynorphin antibody was injected into the conditioned animals via CM the conditioned response was blocked by anti-β-endorphin but not by anti-dynorphin antibody. These observations suggest that β-endorphin appears to be one of the signals that is induced in the brain at the CS recall step of the conditioned response to trigger the elevation of NK cell activity. © 1995 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.