We have developed a novel slice preparation of the mouse somatosensory forebrain. This preparation is unique in including both the ventrobasal nucleus of the thalamus and the sensorimotor "barrel" cortex in a 400-microns-thick slice with the functional connectivity between them preserved, and in allowing direct visualization of the various components of the barrel system in unstained living tissue. Thalamocortical connectivity was demonstrated by recording the laminar profile of cortical field potentials evoked electrically from the ventrobasal nucleus. Current-source density analysis of this profile showed that the largest and earliest sinks were coextensive with the two known sites of thalamocortical terminals, layer IV and the junction of layers V and VI. The sink in layer IV could be dissociated experimentally into a small, early sink of presynaptic origin (most probably a presynaptic spike volley in the thalamocortical terminals) and a later, larger sink generated postsynaptically. By mapping the subcortical stimulation sites that elicited a response at different layer IV recording sites we concluded that the thalamus-to-cortex projection preserves the general dorsoventral relationship of the afferents. Intracellularly recorded responses elicited by thalamic stimulation included (but were not limited to) monosynaptic excitatory and disynaptic inhibitory postsynaptic potentials. The thalamus-to-cortex connections were also mapped with the axonal fluorescent tracer dioctadecyl-tetramethylindocarbocyanine perchlorate. The thalamo-cortical slice is a very suitable system for studying the physiology and pharmacology of the thalamocortical synapse and for exploring the synaptic circuitry of the somatosensory cortex.