In the hippocampus, which is phylogenetically older than the cerebral neocortex, high frequency stimulation of afferent pathways leads to long-term potentiation (LTP) of synaptic transmission. This use-dependent malleability is of considerable interest because it may serve as a substrate for memory processes. However, in the neocortex, whose involvement in learning is undisputed, attempts to demonstrate LTP have remained inconclusive. Here we use intracellular recording techniques to show that LTP can be induced by high frequency stimulation of the optic radiation in slices of the visual cortex of adult rats. We identify as a necessary prerequisite for the induction of LTP the activation of the membrane channel that is associated with the NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor. Selective blockade of this receptor system with DL-2-amino-5-phosphonovalerate consistently prevents LTP as in most hippocampal pathways. In most cortical neurons the activation of the NMDA mechanism and hence the induction of LTP in these experiments requires a concomitant reduction of GABAergic inhibition by low doses of the GABAA antagonist bicuculline. This indicates that in the neocortex the activation threshold of the NMDA-mechanism and consequently the susceptibility to LTP, are strongly influenced by inhibitory processes.