A method which permits repeated microdialysis in the cortical layers of area 17 of the awake cat is described. Under visual control through a surgical microscope and using a stereotactic instrument, four probe guides are permanently implanted in area 17 of one hemisphere of the anesthetized animal and two fixation bars an mounted on the skull to allow fixation of the cat in a stereotactic frame. The implantation of four probe guides in the same hemisphere allows simultaneous sampling from different cortical regions serving different parts of the visual field. A removable transparent cover protects the probe guides. After recovery from surgery the awake cats are trained to adapt to a fixation of 5 h in a stereotaxic apparatus. Once adapted to that situation, the cats are ready for microdialysis experiments without anesthesia. The day of the experiment, the awake animal was fixed in the stereotactic frame and the probes inserted into the guides. To test the validity of the method, the basal efflux and the depolarization efflux, triggered by the addition of 65 mM K+ to the artificial cerebrospinal fluid, of the amino acids aspartate, glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid are measured by two HPLC-electrochemical detection methods. The exact localization of the probes and the reaction of the surrounding tissue is studied using immunocytochemistry for glutamate and glial fibrilary acidic protein. Our neurochemical and morphological results suggest the feasibility of multiple and repeated probe insertions for microdialysis experiments in the cerebral cortex of awake and behaving cat. This method provides a new tool to investigate the cortical plasticity. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.