Transient pioneer neurons in the neocortical marginal zone generate an early corticofugal axonal projection at E12-E16 (Meyer et al. 1998). We have analysed the functional activity of glutamate and GABA receptors in such cells by measuring changes in intracellular calcium concentrations ([Ca2+]i). The activation of GABAA receptors with muscimol, as well as bath application of glutamate, lead to increases in [Ca2+]i in pioneer neurons. The stimulatory action of glutamate is mostly produced through the NMDA-type of ionotropic receptors. Metabotropic glutamate receptor activation has no effect on [Ca2+]i. Consistent with such results, immunocytochemical studies showed a prominent expression of GABAA and NMDA receptors in pioneer neurons. The activation of such receptors may be implicated in the remodelling of pioneer neurons during development.