The effect of antagonism of GABA(A) receptors on the receptive fields of raccoon primary somatosensory cortical neurons was tested using microiontophoretic administration of bicuculline methiodide (BMI). The size of cutaneous receptive fields was examined using minimal suprathreshold mechanical stimulation before, during, and after BMI administration. In 65 of 102 rapidly adapting neurons, BMI produced a clear expansion of the receptive field. The mean increase in receptive-field size was 286%. The receptive fields on the distal digit, which were initially smaller, showed smaller increases in absolute area than more proximal receptive fields, but the percentage increase did not vary with location. Greater expansion was seen in superficially located neurons than in those below 800 microm. Of particular significance was the finding that the expansion of receptive fields produced by BMI never extended from one digit onto an adjacent digit or onto the palm, even when the original receptive field was at the base of a digit. This finding indicates that intracortical GABAergic inhibition is insufficient to explain cortical reorganization following digit amputation.