1. The laminar and temporal distribution of synaptic activity supplied by forward and feedback connections between different areas of rat visual cortex was determined with the use of current source density (CSD) analysis in in vitro slices. In forward connections, synaptic potentials were evoked by electrically stimulating area 17 and recording in the extrastriate area LM (lateromedial), that ranks at the second hierarchical level, one step above primary visual cortex. For activating feedback connections, the location of stimulating and recording electrodes was reversed. 2. The synaptic interactions in reciprocal intracortical circuits are excitatory, and they are mediated through glutamate receptors that are blocked by kynurenic acid. 3. Forward connections from area 17 to area LM provide input to all layers including a strong input to layer 4. In contrast, feedback input to layer 4 is weak and is mainly directed to superficial and deep layers. This laminar distribution closely resembles that Keen anatomically. 4. Both forward and feedback connections evoke distinct temporal patterns of synaptic activation in different layers. Although onset and peak latencies are slightly shorter in the forward than in the feedback pathway, the difference is not statistically significant. 5. The spatiotemporal distribution of synaptic activation by forward connections resembles the pattern evoked by geniculocortical inputs. Feedback connections show greater similarities to long-range connections within area 17, although they are not identical. Our results support the notion derived from anatomic and in vivo physiological studies that forward and feedback pathways belong to functionally distinct cortical circuits.