Sensory pathways of the brain generally develop from crudely wired networks to precisely organized systems. Several studies have implicated neural activity-dependent mechanisms, including N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, in this refinement process. We applied the gene targeting to the NMDAR1 gene and created a mutant mouse that lacks functional NMDA receptors. The development of whisker-related patterns in the trigeminal nuclei of the mutant mice and their normal littermates was compared. We show that in the mutant mice pathfinding, initial targeting, and crude topographic projection of trigeminal axons in the brainstem are unaffected, but that whisker-specific patches fail to form. Our results provide a direct demonstration of the involvement of the NMDA receptor in the formation of periphery-related neural patterns in the mammalian brain.