Using a multiple-site optical recording technique with a voltage-sensitive dye, we found that widely spreading depolarization waves were evoked by dorsal root stimulation in embryonic chick spinal cords. Spatiotemporal maps of the depolarization waves showed that the signals were mainly distributed in the ventral half of the slice, with the highest activity in the ventrolateral area. The propagation velocity of the waves was estimated to be in the order of mm/s. Depolarization waves were evoked in the ventral root-cut preparation, but not in the dorsal root-cut preparation, suggesting that the wave was triggered by synaptic inputs from the primary afferents, and that activation of the motoneurons was not essential for wave generation. In intact spinal cord–brain preparations, the depolarization wave propagated rostrally and caudally for a distance of several spinal segments in normal Ringer's solution. In a Mg2+-free solution, the amplitude and extent of the signals were markedly enhanced, and the depolarization wave triggered in the cervical spinal cord propagated to the brainstem and the cerebellum. The depolarization wave demonstrated here had many similarities with the vagus nerve-evoked depolarization wave reported previously. The results suggest that functional cell-to-cell communication systems mediated by the depolarization wave are widely generated in the embryonic central nervous system, and could play a role in large-scale coactivation of the neurons in the spinal cord and brain.