We have trained five cats in orientation discrimination using different contours, and compared the deficits caused by lesions of cortical areas 17 and 18 (tier I) to the deficits induced by removal of those areas receiving afferents originating in areas 17 and 18 (tier II). As contour stimuli we used two types of illusory contours and a luminance bar. The two illusory contours were defined by opposed line-ends. One of them coincided with a luminance gradient whereas the other did not. Tier I lesions destroyed the capacity to discriminate the orientation of both illusory contours, and also caused an important, though less severe, deficit in bar orientation discrimination. The deficits induced by tier I lesions were permanent. Tier II lesions also caused significant deficits in orientation discrimination of illusory contours, but only a negligible deficit in bar orientation discrimination, and this result was not a mere consequence of a difference in difficulty between the tasks involving bars and illusory contours. In addition, tier II lesions differentiated between illusory contour types, the deficit being more pronounced for the illusory contour without luminance gradient than for the one with luminance gradient. In contrast to tier I lesions, tier II lesions allowed significant recovery, leading to small final deficits for all contour types tested.