In neocortex, synaptic inhibition is mediated by γ-aminobutyric acid-A (GABA(A)) and GABA(B) receptors. By using intracellular and patch-clamp recordings in slices of rat visual cortex we studied the balance of excitation and inhibition in different intracortical pathways. The study was focused on the strength of fast GABA(A)- and slow GABA(B)-mediated inhibition in interareal forward and feedback connections between area 17 and the secondary, latero-medial visual area (LM). Our results demonstrate that in most layer 2/3 neurons forward inputs elicited excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) that were followed by fast GABA(A)and slow GABA(B)- mediated hyperpolarizing inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs). These responses resembled those elicited by horizontal connections within area 17 and those evoked by stimulation of the layer 6/white matter border. In contrast, in the feedback pathway hyperpolarizing fast and slow IPSPs were rare. However weak fast and slow IPSPs were unmasked by bath application of GABA(B) receptor antagonists. Because in the feedback pathway disynaptic fast and slow IPSPs were rare, polysynaptic EPSPs were more frequent than in forward, horizontal, and interlaminar circuits and were activated over a broader stimulus range. In addition, in the feedback pathway large-amplitude polysynaptic EPSPs were longer lasting and showed a late component whose onset coincided with that of slow IPSPs. In the forward pathway these late EPSPs were only seen with stimulus intensities that were below the activation threshold of slow IPSPs. Unlike strong forward inputs, feedback stimuli of a wide range of intensities increased the rate of ongoing neuronal firing. Thus, when forward and feedback inputs are simultaneously active, feedback inputs may provide late polysynaptic excitation that can offset slow IPSPs evoked by forward inputs and in turn may promote recurrent excitation through local intracolumnar circuits. This may provide a mechanism by which feedback inputs from higher cortical areas can amplify afferent signals in lower areas.