1. The present studies investigated conditions for the induction of long-term potentiation (LTP) in the local horizontal pathways of layers II/III in the primary motor cortex (MI) of the adult rat. Field potential and intracellular recordings demonstrated synaptic interactions across the superficial layers within MI that could be enhanced transiently by focal application of the gamma-aminobuturic acid-A receptor antagonist bicuculline methiodide (Bic) at the recording site. 2. Field potentials evoked in the superficial MI horizontal pathways increased in amplitude after tetanizing, theta burst stimulation (TBS), but only when Bic was applied transiently at the recording site immediately before TBS. In the absence of Bic, TBS failed to produce long-lasting increases in horizontally evoked field responses. By contrast, TBS delivery during focal Bic application increased field potential amplitudes by 25-35% when measured 25-30 min after stimulation. The amount of potentiation was greater when two converging horizontal inputs were stimulated together but was not increased with higher intensity stimulation. Persistent effects of Bic application alone were evident. However, these effects were small unless Bic application continued until evoked field potential amplitude increase exceeded 200% of baseline. 3. The synaptic nature of field potential increases were confirmed using intracellular recordings of layer II/III neurons located near field potential electrodes. 4. LTP also could be induced without Bic application by cotetanization of vertical pathways simultaneously with horizontal activation. Vertical conditioning alone at 2 Hz, which affects inhibitory efficacy, was shown to transiently relieve depression of successive responses that ordinarily occurs during a burst of three horizontal stimuli. These results suggest that LTP of horizontal pathways may be regulated by spatiotemporal interactions between horizontal and vertical pathways. 5. Horizontal LTP was blocked reversibly by bath application of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonist 2-amino-5-phosphonovaleric acid, thereby implicating NMDA-receptor activation in LTP induction for these pathways. 6. The results confirm and extend our previous finding that the potential for activity-dependent modification of synaptic connections exists within the intrinsic horizontal connections of the superficial cortical layers. Synaptic modification across horizontally connected neurons appears to be regulated both by the arrangement of intrinsic circuitry and by the availability of mechanisms for modification at individual synapses. The properties of horizontal connections indicate that they form a spatial substrate and provide an activity-dependent mechanism for plasticity of adult cortical representations.