Here we ask whether visual response pattern varies with position in the cortical microcircuit by comparing the structure of receptive fields recorded from the different layers of the cat's primary visual cortex. We used whole-cell recording in vivo to show the spatial distribution of visually evoked excitatory and inhibitory inputs and to stain individual neurons. We quantified the distribution of 'On' and 'Off' responses and the presence of spatially opponent excitation and inhibition within the receptive field. The thalamorecipient layers (4 and upper 6) were dominated by simple cells, as defined by two criteria: they had separated On and Off subregions, and they had push-pull responses (in a given subregion, stimuli of the opposite contrast evoked responses of the opposite sign). Other types of response profile correlated with laminar location as well. Thus, connections unique to each visual cortical layer are likely to serve distinct functions.