During a critical period of early postnatal development the functional architecture of the visual cortex is shaped by experience-dependent circuit selection following a Hebbian mechanism. One consequence is that monocular deprivation (MD) leads to competitive repression of the input from the deprived eye. Recently it has been proposed that this process might involve activity-dependent competition for neurotrophic substances because the synthesis of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is regulated by visual input. Here we investigate the effects of intracortical infusion of BDNF and nerve growth factor (NGF) on MD effects in the visual cortex. Neuronal responses were monitored with optical and single unit recording techniques in the visual cortex of kittens that had been infused intracortically either with BDNF, NGF or cytochrome C while subjected to MD for 1 week during the peak of the critical period. NGF or cytochrome C had no effect on the consequences of MD. After BDNF treatment, by contrast, ocular dominance (OD) shifted towards the deprived eye in a zone extending 2.5-3.5 mm from the infusion cannula, and neurons lost their orientation selectivity. At intermediate distances both eyes activated the cortex equally well and responses were again tuned for orientation; at still larger distances OD was shifted towards the normal eye. Thus, BDNF antagonizes the functional effects of MD and at high concentrations causes paradoxical disconnection of non-deprived afferents and a loss of orientation selectivity.