GABAergic drugs have profound effects on the regulation of circadian rhythms. The present study evaluated the effects of microinjections of GABAergic drugs into the suprachiasmatic region in hamsters on phase shifts induced by light and by microinjection of a cocktail containing vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), peptide histidine isoleucine (PHI) and gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP). The phase-advancing effects of light at circadian time (CT) 19 were significantly reduced by microinjection of GABA(A) or GABA(B) agonists into the SCN, but were not altered by microinjection of GABA(A) or GABA(B) antagonists. Microinjection of a GABA(B) agonist also reduced the phase-delaying effects of light at CT 13.5-14 while a GABA(B) antagonist increased the phase delays caused by light. Neither GABA(B) drug altered the phase delays produced by microinjection of a peptide cocktail containing VIP, PHI, GRP. These data indicate that changes in GABA(A) or GABA(B) activity within the SCN can alter the phase-shifting effects of light on circadian rhythms and support a role for GABA in gating photic input to the circadian clock.