Male Fisher rats (n = 61) underwent permanent focal cerebral ischemia induced by left middle cerebral artery (MCA) occlusion, in conjunction with ipsilateral common carotid artery ligation. The experiments were terminated at time points ranging from immediately following occlusion to 30 days post MCA occlusion. A coronal histological section, in close proximity to the site of the arterial occlusion, was taken from each brain and divided into six areas encompassing the affected cortex and caudate putamen. Each area was analyzed for ischemic damage according to a grading scale that reflects changes in neuronal morphology. Differential neuronal counts were also made on a 0.5-mm2 field in each of the six areas. The areas closest to the occluded vessel showed accelerated ischemic damage between 8 and 12 h after occlusion, leaving open the possibility that before 8 h, therapeutic intervention may be effective. After 12 h, changes in these areas progressed to complete necrosis and eventual cavitation with a complete loss of neurons after 10 days. The areas more peripheral to the occluded vessel exhibited mild ischemic damage, with an apparent reversal of damage grading at later time points and no loss of neurons. This reversal of ischemic damage in the peripheral areas is suggestive of a histological equivalent of the penumbra.