Unilateral transient cerebral ischemia was produced in Mongolian gerbils by clipping the left common carotid artery for 1 h. About 60% of the gerbils with neurological symptoms had post-ischemic seizures. The majority of those that had seizures died within a few days, and sections of their cerebral cortices contained many dark and shrunken neurons. However, the gerbils that did not have seizures survived without any severe complications. In the cerebral cortex of the latter, the neurons with diffuse or peripheral pallor of the perikarya were seen along with a small number of dark and shrunken neurons. Diffuse pallor occurred within a few hours following ischemia in layers III, V, and VI, and disappeared 1 or 2 days after recirculation. Electron microscopically, these neurons showed dispersion of ribosomes, simple and elongated profiles of rough endoplasmic reticulum (r-ER), clustered vacuoles, and mild to moderate mitochondrial swelling. Occasional net-like tubulomembranous structures, probably derived from r-ER, were observed. On the other hand, peripheral pallor became apparent after 5 days following ischemia, usually involving layer II first and gradually extending to the deeper layers. Concomitantly, the amount of neuropil decreased and the dendrites exhibited tortuosity and irregularity in layer II. Electron microscopically, these neurons showed marked swelling of peripheral perikarya and polyribosomes and organelles were located peripherally to the nuclei. In addition, numerous degenerated axon terminals and distended dendrites were observed around the neurons. These observations indicate that diffuse pallor represents damage directly induced by ischemia and subsequent recirculation, while peripheral pallor is the delayed and remote effect of ischemia, probably due to degeneration of neuronal processes.