Actions of antagonists for excitatory amino-acid (EAA) receptors on extracellularly and intracellularly recorded responses of layer II/III cells to electrical stimulation of the underlying white matter were studied in a slice preparation of rat's visual cortex. Antagonists used were 2-amino-5-phosphonovalerate (APV) and 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione (CNQX), which are selective antagonists for EAA receptors of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) and quisqualate/kainate (non-NMDA) type, respectively. In extracellular recordings, it was found that responses of almost all of the cells were suppressed by CNQX. In contrast, sensitivity to APV was different between cells with short- and long-latency responses; 81% of the former responses were not suppressed by APV, while about a half of the latter were suppressed. Excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) evoked by white-matter stimulation were recorded intracellularly from 42 neurons. Most of polysynaptically elicited EPSPs were sensitive to APV, whereas the majority of monosynaptic EPSPs were not. CNQX almost completely suppressed EPSPs irrespective of monosynaptically or polysynaptically evoked, but in some cases slow EPSPs with low amplitude were spared. These CNQX-resistant EPSPs were elicited polysynaptically and had an anomalous voltage dependence, a characteristic of NMDA receptors. It is suggested that non-NMDA receptors contribute dominantly to first-order synaptic transmission while NMDA receptors participate substantially in second-order transmission so as to serve as a booster of outputs from visual cortex.