1. Intracellular microelectrodes were used to obtain recordings from neurons in layer II/III of rat frontal cortex. A bipolar electrode positioned in layer IV of the neocortex was used to evoke postsynaptic potentials. Graded series of stimulation were employed to selectively activate different classes of postsynaptic responses. The sensitivity of postsynaptic potentials and iontophoretically applied neurotransmitters to the non-N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonist 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione (CNQX) was examined. 2. As reported previously, low-intensity electrical stimulation of cortical layer IV evoked short-latency early excitatory postsynaptic potentials (eEPSPs) in layer II/III neurons. CNQX reversibly antagonized eEPSPs in a dose-dependent manner. Stimulation at intensities just subthreshold for activation of inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs) produced long-latency (10 to 40-ms) EPSPs (late EPSPs or lEPSPs). CNQX was effective in blocking lEPSPs. 3. With the use of stimulus intensities at or just below threshold for evoking an action potential, complex synaptic potentials consisting of EPSP-IPSP sequences were observed. Both early, Cl--dependent and late, K+-dependent IPSPs were reduced by CNQX. This effect was reversible on washing. This disinhibition could lead to enhanced excitability in the presence of CNQX. 4. Iontophoretic application of quisqualate produced a membrane depolarization with superimposed action potentials, whereas NMDA depolarized the membrane potential and evoked bursts of action potentials. At concentrations up to 5 μM, CNQX selectively antagonized quisqualate responses. NMDA responses were reduced by 10 μM CNQX. D-Serine (0.5-2 mM), an agonist at the glycine regulatory site on the NMDA receptor, reversed the CNQX depression of NMDA responses. 5. These experiments provide evidence that CNQX, at appropriate concentrations, is a selective non-NMDA receptor antagonist in the neocortex. Non-NMDA receptors play an important role in both excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission in the rat frontal neocortex.