PURPOSE. To test the hypothesis that pathophysiologic deformation of the lamina cribrosa and anterior scleral canal wall underlies the onset of confocal scanning laser tomography (CSLT)-detected optic nerve head (ONH) surface change in early experimental glaucoma. METHODS. Both eyes of four normal (two normal eyes) monkeys and four with early glaucoma (one eye with laser-induced IOP elevation, observed until the onset of CSLT-detected ONH surface change) were enucleated immediately after death and immersion fixed at IOP 0 mm Hg. In an additional four normal monkeys and five with early glaucoma, both eyes were cannulated, and IOP set to 10 mm Hg in one normal eye and either 30 or 45 mm Hg in the other (normal or early-glaucoma) eye. After 15 to 80 minutes of acute IOP elevation, these nine monkeys were perfusion-fixed. Within images of serial sagittal sections of the ONH tissues in all 17 monkeys, anterior lamina cribrosa position, laminar thickness, and scleral canal diameter were measured. For each parameter, differences between the two eyes of each monkey and between treatment groups were assessed by ANOVA. RESULTS. Within the eyes of the eight monkeys with IOP 0 mm Hg, the lamina cribrosa was posteriorly displaced and thicker and the scleral canal was enlarged at Bruch's membrane and at the anterior laminar insertion in the early-glaucoma eyes compared with the contralateral normal eyes (plastic deformation). Within the high-IOP normal eyes, the lamina cribrosa was posteriorly displaced compared with that in the low-IOP normal eyes, but there were no significant differences in laminar thickness or scleral canal diameter (normal compliance). Within the high-IOP early-glaucoma eyes, the lamina cribrosa was posteriorly displaced and thicker and the scleral canal enlarged, compared with both low-IOP normal eyes and high-IOP normal eyes (hypercompliant deformation). Differences in laminar position between the high-IOP early-glaucoma eyes and the contralateral low-IOP normal eyes (hypercompliant plus plastic deformation) were more than eight times greater than the differences between the high-IOP normal eyes and the contralateral low-IOP normal eyes (normal compliance). CONCLUSIONS. Both plastic (permanent) and hypercompliant deformation of the lamina cribrosa and anterior scleral canal wall are present in young adult monkey eyes with early experimental glaucoma. These findings suggest that damage to the ONH connective tissues occurs early in the monkey model of experimental glaucoma.