The nucleus laminaris (NL), a third-order brain stem auditory nucleus in birds, receives afferents to its dorsal dendrites from the ipsilateral nucleus magnocellularis (NM), while the ventral dendrites of NL neurons are innervated by axons from the contralateral NM via the crossed dorsal cochlear tract (CTrX). The CTrx was transected in young chickens and, 96 h later, NL was examined for cytological changes. A morphometric analysis of electron micrographs from lesioned and shamd axon terminals were localized almost entirely to the ventral neuropil region of NL. (2) The volume density of dendrite in the ventral region of NL of lesioned animals was reduced by 85% compared to both the dorsal dendritic region of the same animals and the ventral dendritic region of sham-operated control animals. (3) The frequency with which primary dendrites were encountered in the ventral neuropil of lesioned animals was 81% lower than sham-operated controls. (4) Frequently, there was an apparent reduction in the amount of rough endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi apparatus and cytoplasmic granularity in the deafferented part of the NL neurons. (5) The data indicate that the cytological integrity of dendritic processes cna be specifically, profoundly and very rapidly compromised by removing a significant proportion of their afferents, suggesting that a tonic influence may be exerted by the presynaptic terminals.