Regressive phenomena are common during the development of the nervous tissue. Among them, naturally occurring cell death has been observed in several regions of the nervous system. Cell death in the somatosensory cortex and medial cortical regions (hind limb, frontal cortex 1, frontal cortex 2, retrosplenial agranular, retrosplenial granular [Zilles K. et al. (1980) Anat. Embryol. 159, 335-360]) as well as in the cortical subplate (future subcortical white matter) in the rat mainly occurs during the first 10 days of postnatal life with peak values of 3.1 dead cells per 1000 live neurons at the end of the first week. Cell death progresses from birth to day 7 with a predominance of dead cells in the subplate and in layers II-III. Later, dead cells are more dispersed in the cerebral cortex, but a significant amount is still present in the subcortical white matter. This pattern correlates with the arrival and settlement of cortical afferents at the different cortical levels, as described in other studies, and points to the likelihood that transitory cellular populations are important clues in the modelling of the cerebral cortex during normal development. Transitory populations of macrophages (amoeboid or nascent microglial cells) that appear in great numbers during the same period and in the same regions are involved in the removal of dead cells.