The great variability in the electrical properties of multinary oxide materials, ranging from insulating, through semiconducting to metallic behaviour, has given rise to the idea of modulating the electronic properties on a nanometre scale for high-density electronic memory devices. A particularly promising aspect seems to be the ability of perovskites to provide bistable switching of the conductance between non-metallic and metallic behaviour by the application of an appropriate electric field. Here we demonstrate that the switching behaviour is an intrinsic feature of naturally occurring dislocations in single crystals of a prototypical ternary oxide, SrTiO(3). The phenomenon is shown to originate from local modulations of the oxygen content and to be related to the self-doping capability of the early transition metal oxides. Our results show that extended defects, such as dislocations, can act as bistable nanowires and hold technological promise for terabit memory devices.