1. In alert macaque monkeys, multiunit activity is encountered in an alternating sequence of silent and spontaneously active zones as an electrode is lowered through the striate cortex (V1). 2. Individual neurons that are spontaneously active in the dark usually have a maintained discharge in the light. Because both types of discharge occur in the absence of deliberate stimulation, we call them the "ongoing" activity. The zones with ongoing activity correspond to the cytochrome oxidase (CytOx)-rich geniculorecipient layers 4A, 4C, and 6, whereas the adjacent layers 2/3, 4B, and 5 have little ongoing activity. 3. The widths of receptive field activating regions (ARs) are positively correlated with the cells' ongoing activity. Cells with larger ARs are preferentially located in the CytOx-rich (input) layers, and many are unselective for stimulus orientation. However, approximately 90% of the cells in the silent layers are orientation selective, and they often have small ARs. 4. The laminar distribution of selectivity for orientation and direction of movement in alert animals is consistent with earlier results from anesthetized animals, but the laminar distribution of AR widths differs. In alert macaques, the ARs of direction-selective cells in layer 4B and of orientation-selective cells in layer 5 are among the smallest in V1. 5. Our findings indicate that the input layers of V1 (4A, 4C, and 6) have a diversity of AR widths, including large ones. Cortical processing produces receptive fields in some of the output layers (4B and 5) that are restricted to small ARs with high resolution of spatial position. These results imply potent lateral and/or interlaminar interactions in alert animals in early cortical processing. The diversity of AR widths generated in V1 may contribute to detection of fine detail in the presence of contrasting backgrounds--the early stages of figure-ground discrimination.