The effects of unilateral cochlea removal on GABA-immunoreactive (GABA-I) terminals in nucleus magnocellularis (NM) of the chick were assessed by immunocytochemical (ICC) techniques. Posthatch chicks (5-8 days old) survived from 1-37 days following unilateral cochlea removal. In the ipsilateral NM, the density of GABA-I terminals appeared to increase relative to normal controls 10-37 days after cochlea removal. However, most of that increase could be attributed to a decrease in cell size, cell number, and volume of the nucleus as a result of deafferentation. In the contralateral NM, the density of GABA-I terminals decreased relative to the ipsilateral NM and to normal animals 1-21 days after cochlea removal. The number of GABA-I terminals per NM neuron also decreased in the contralateral NM while that in the ipsilateral NM was comparable to normal controls. To ascertain whether these changes represented changes in the number of terminals or in the amount of GABA contained within the terminals, we also examined these terminals using an antibody to glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), the biosynthetic enzyme for GABA. Following unilateral cochlea removal, there was no difference in the density of GAD-I terminals in NM between the two sides of the brain for any of the survival times. Similarly, bilateral cochlea removal had no discernible effect on the density of GABA-I terminals in NM. These data suggest that unilateral deafferentation may temporarily downregulate the biosynthesis of GABA in the contralateral NM.