The pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus has connections with sites in both dorsal and ventral striatum, and a number of studies have suggested that it has a role in reward-related behaviour. The present experiment aimed to investigate the perception of reward in pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus-lesioned rats responding for food under a progressive ratio schedule, which measures willingness to work for a given reward. Rats were trained on a progressive ratio-5 schedule for food reward, then given ibotenic acid or sham lesions of the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus. Their performance under this schedule was examined again following recovery from surgery. Compared with sham-lesioned rats, those with lesions of the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus showed significantly reduced breaking points and significantly longer post-reinforcement pauses. However, there was no difference between the groups in their latency to collect food pellets once earned, suggesting that pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus excitotoxin and sham-lesioned rats were equally motivated by the presence of food. Excitotoxin-lesioned rats made significantly more responses on the control lever and more entries to the food hopper as progressive ratio increment increased, but did not differ from controls when the schedule requirement was low. These results are interpreted as indicating no global loss of motivation, since lesioned rats performed normally at low schedule requirements, and were as fast as controls to collect pellets. But as the schedule requirement increased, excitotoxin-lesioned rats showed reductions in responding on the active lever (that is, a reduction in breaking point) and an increase in inappropriate responses towards the food hopper and the control lever. We consider these data to indicate that the behavioural deficits in pedunculopontine-lesioned rats arise not from a sensory or hedonic change, but from alteration in the control of motor output.