We tested the hypothesis that patterned primary afferent impulse activity during early postnatal periods is necessary for central trigeminal pattern formation. Newborn rats had their whiskers trimmed daily and new slices of slow release polymer containing the sodium channel blocker, tetrodotoxin, were placed under the infraorbital nerve every 8 h for up to 9 days. Electrophysiological recordings indicated that trigeminal ganglion cells were unresponsive to peripheral stimuli and chronically silenced. Trigeminal ganglion cell numbers were unaffected by nerve blockade. Cytochrome oxidase staining patterns in the trigeminal brainstem complex, thalamus, and barrel cortex were normal on postnatal day 1, 3, 5, 7, or 9 (n = 4 each). Whisker-related patches were of normal sizes and staining densities. Similar negative results were obtained in 9 rats in which whiskers were trimmed daily and the long-acting local anesthetic bupivacaine was injected into the whisker pad at 2.5- to 4-h intervals from birth to sacrifice on postnatal day 5-9. Cytochrome oxidase staining patterns and patch properties again did not differ from normal. Thus, trigeminal pattern formation occurs even when the entire infraorbital nerve is silenced from birth.