The invasion of fast (Na+) spikes from the soma into dendrites was studied in single pyramidal cells of the sensorimotor cortex by simultaneous extracellular recordings of the somatic and dendritic action potentials in freely behaving rats. Field potentials and unit activity were monitored with multiple-site silicon probes along trajectories perpendicular to the cortical layers at spatial intervals of 100 micron. Dendritic action potentials of individual layer V pyramidal neurons could be recorded up to 400 micron from the cell body. Action potentials were initiated at the somatic recording site and traveled back to the apical dendrite at a velocity of 0.67 m/s. Current source density analysis of the action potential revealed time shifted dipoles, supporting the view of active spike propagation in dendrites. The presented method is suitable for exploring the conditions affecting the somadendritic propagation action of potentials in the behaving animal.