The effects of glutamate, N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA), (+)-5-methyl-10,11-dihydro-5H-dibenzo-(a,d)-cyclohepten 5,10-imine maleate (MK801), α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionate (AMPA) and quisqualate on the accumulation of inositol phosphates (IP) from the breakdown of phosphoinositides in vitro have been studied in tissue prisms derived from a region of the chick forebrain, the intermediate medial hyperstriatum ventrale (IMHV). In prisms from the left IMHV, glutamate stimulated IP accumulation by 10–20%, AMPA by 55% and quisqualate by 650%. These effects were more marked in the right IMHV, where AMPA stimulated IP accumulation by 157% and quisqualate by 920%. MK801 and NMDA had no significant effect on IP accumulation in either hemisphere. The left IMHV is known to be the site of a biochemical cascade resulting in synaptic remodelling following training day-old chicks on a one-trial passive avoidance task. The effect of such training was to reduce glutamate-stimulated accumulation of IP by 27% (P < 0.05) in prisms taken 30 min after training. There was no effect on prisms taken at 5 or 180 min after training, and no effect at any time in the right IMHV. MK801, injected intraperitoneally before training at a concentration known to produce amnesia for the passive avoidance task, abolished the training-induced decrease without itself affecting IP accumulation. Taken in conjunction with pharmacological and autoradiographic evidence, these results indicate that memory formation for the passive avoidance task involves the activation of NMDA receptor channels, but not quisqualate or AMPA receptors, in the left IMHV of the chick 30 min after training.