Mechanical movement, reflecting compression within the lamina cribrosa, has been suggested as an initiating event in the production of damage in glaucoma. Reversible movements within the lamina cribrosa were sought and studied by characterizing the displacement of fine platinum wire following short-term elevation of intraocular pressure in 13 enucleated human eyes. With IOP elevation, maximum movement in the optic nerve occurred near its center, with minimum movement at its periphery. The difference in movement between these two locations increased with increases in IOP. However, the greatest displacement per unit of IOP elevation occurred at the lowest IOP. Resistance to further displacement occurred as higher IOP was reached. The differential mechanical displacement observed may initiate damage in open-angle glaucoma by causing compression of the vessels and/or shearing of axons within the lamina cribrosa.