This study aimed at gaining insight into the role of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate in topographic map reorganization in the sensory systems of adult mammals after restricted deafferentations. Hereto, in vivo microdialysis was used to sample extracellular glutamate from sensory-deprived and non-deprived visual cortex of adult awake cats 18 to 53 days after the induction of restricted binocular retinal lesions, and in topographically corresponding cortical regions of control animals. A microbore HPLC-ED method was applied for the analysis of the microdialysates. In normal subjects, the visual cortex subserving central and peripheral vision showed similar extracellular fluid glutamate concentrations. In contrast, in animals with homonymous central retinal lesions, the extracellular glutamate concentration was significantly lower in central, sensory-deprived cortex compared to peripheral, non-deprived cortex. Compared to control regions in normal subjects, glutamate decreased in the extracellular fluid of deprived cortex but increased significantly in remote non-deprived visual cortex. These results not only suggest an activity-dependent regulation of the glutamate levels in visual cortex but also imply a role for perilesional cortical regions in topographic map reorganization following sensory deafferentation. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.