Dual and triple intracellular recordings with biocytin labelling in slices of adult neocortex explored small circuits of synaptically connected neurons. 679 paired recordings in rat and 319 in cat yielded 135 and 42 excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) and 37 and 26 inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs), respectively. Patterns of connectivity and synaptic properties were similar in the two species, although differences of scale and in the range of morphologies were observed. Excitatory 'forward' projections from layer 4 to 3, like those from layer 3 to 5, targeted pyramidal cells and a small proportion of interneurons, while excitatory 'back' projections from layer 3 to 4 selected interneurons, including parvalbumin immuno-positive basket cells. Layer 4 interneurons that inhibited layer 3 pyramidal cells included both basket cells and dendrite-targeting cells. Large interneurons, resembling cells previously described as large basket cells, in layers 4 and 3 (cat), with long myelinated horizontal axon collaterals received frequent excitatory inputs from both layers. A very high rate of connectivity was observed between pairs of interneurons, often with quite different morphologies, and the resultant IPSPs, like the EPSPs recorded in interneurons, were brief compared with those recorded in pyramidal and spiny stellate cells.