The purpose of this study was to characterize the inhibitory mechanism(s) associated with directionally selective motion detection (DS) in nonspiking tangential cells of crayfish optic lobe. The experiments employed intracellular recording of synaptic potentials elicited with sinewave gratings and pharmacological techniques. Previous studies established that tangential cells are subject to bicuculline-sensitive GABA-mediated inhibition. In this study DS was reduced by 90% by bicuculline. The reduction in DS was accompanied by a substantial increase in the response to null-direction motion. Bicuculline also altered the response to pulses of illumination. The magnitude and time course of inhibition were derived from the time varying difference between the control light response and that elicited during bicuculline perfusion. Both the inhibitory delay (relative to excitation) and the inhibitory amplitude are close to the expectations of a linear model of DS. The inhibition is not prolonged with respect to excitation but its risetime is approximately 2.5 times longer. The result implies a longer time constant in the inhibitory pathway relative to that in the excitatory pathway and places limits on the frequency response of inhibition and DS. The velocity-dependence of DS is related to the time course of inhibition. The stimulus drift velocity eliciting maximum directionality is inversely proportional to the inhibitory delay. Bicuculline did not influence orientation selectivity. It is concluded that the quantitative features of bicuculline-sensitive, GABA-mediated inhibition are consistent with a linear model of DS.