A transient ischaemic episode of 10 min duration was induced in 1-day-old chicks. After a 1-week survival period, synapse density was assessed in the ventral hippocampus using the ‘disector’ technique. A significant decrease was observed in asymmetric synapses, markedly greater than that observed previously in the dorsal hippocampus. Because the effect occurred mainly on excitatory synapses, the distribution of glutamate in the ventral hippocampus was also assessed by a postembedding immunogold labelling technique. The density of gold particles was significantly greater in both boutons and neuropil in the ischaemic group compared to controls, lending support to the theory of excitotoxicity as an explanation for ischaemic neural degeneration.