1. The effects of stimulation within the hypothalamic defence area (HDA) on the activity of neurones in the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS) have been investigated in vivo. 2. HDA stimulation exerted marked influences on NTS neurones. Approximately two‐thirds of units receiving a carotid sinus nerve (SN) input were inhibited by HDA stimulation. All units shown to receive an excitatory input from carotid sinus baroreceptors were inhibited by HDA stimulation. 3. The specificity of the HDA stimulation was investigated by generalized hypothalamic stimulation. In these experiments the number of units activated by SN stimulation that were inhibited was reduced considerably. A much smaller percentage (27%) of baroreceptive units were inhibited from hypothalamic stimulation outside the defence area. 4. Intracellular recordings revealed that HDA stimulation evoked a long‐lasting hyperpolarization of membrane potential that resulted from postsynaptic inhibition (rather than disfacilitation). The HDA‐evoked IPSP 'shunted' the SN‐evoked EPSP when the SN stimulus was timed to occur during the initial peak hyperpolarizing phase of the HDA‐evoked IPSP. 5. HDA stimulation disinhibited cells receiving an inhibitory input from the carotid sinus baroreceptors. 6. The effects of HDA stimulation were not limited to cells receiving SN afferent information or to cells within the NTS. 7. Our results explain, at the intracellular level, the mechanism for the central suppression of the baroreceptor reflex that forms an integral part of the defence response in the cat.