The synaptic input of six spiny stellate neurons in sublamina 4A of cat area 17 was assessed by electron microscopy. The neurons were physiologically characterized and filled with horseradish peroxidase in vivo. After processing the neurons were reconstructed at the light microscopic level using computer-assisted methods and analyzed quantitatively. The extensive branching of the dendritic tree about 50 microns from the soma meant that the distal branches constituted five times the length of proximal dendrite. Proximal and distal portions of a single dendrite from each neuron were examined in series of ultrathin sections (1,456 sections) in the electron microscope. The majority (79%) of the 263 synapses examined were asymmetric; the remainder (21%) were symmetric. Symmetric synapses formed 35% of synapses sampled on proximal dendrites and were usually located on the shaft. They formed only 4% of synapses sampled on distal dendrites. Spines accounted for less than half of the total asymmetric synapses (45%); the remainder were on shafts. Symmetric synapses formed with four of 92 spines. Nine spines formed no synapses. Spiny stellate neurons in cat visual cortex appear to differ considerably from pyramidal neurons in having a significant asymmetric (excitatory) synaptic input to the dendritic shaft.