Stress and sulfite can stimulate numerous pathways leading to an increased production of free radicals which generate a peroxidation cascade producing lipid peroxidation, protein oxidation, DNA damage and cell death, and contribute to the occurrence of pathologic conditions. The purpose of our study was to investigate the effects of stress and sulfite on visual evoked potentials (VEPs) and to examine the relationship between lipid peroxidation and VEP changes. Forty male wistar rats, aged three months were used. They were equally divided into four groups: control (C), the group exposed to restraint stress (R), the group treated with sulfite (S) and the group exposed to stress and treated with sulfite (RS). Chronic restraint stress was applied for 21 days (1 h/day) and sodium metabisulfite (520 mg/kg/day) was given by gavage for the same period. All latencies of VEP components were prolonged in the R, S and RS groups with respect to the C group. Brain and retina TBARS levels were found to be increased in those groups compared to the C group. Our results strongly suggest that the latency prolongations of all VEP components may have resulted from the enhancement of lipid peroxidation. Correlation analysis between brain and retina TBARS levels and VEP latencies also support this conclusion. Our data in regard to latency prolongations of all VEP components in the stress group exposed to sulfite, reflected an additive effect of sulfite toxicity on VEP components. Therefore it could be suggested that chronic exposure to stress and sulfite together is associated with a considerable health risk. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.