Extending previous investigations of the topographic relationship between ocular dominance and orientation columns in the cat visual cortex the two systems were visualized with transneuronally transported [3H]proline and with activity-dependent uptake of [14C]2-deoxyglucose, respectively. In addition, we used the 2-deoxyglucose method for a functional assay of both columnar systems. To this end, cats were injected with [3H]proline in the right eye. Two weeks later, they were stimulated monocularly through this eye by presenting contours of only a single orientation in the left and contours of many different orientations in the right visual hemifield while 2-deoxyglucose was injected. The patterns of increased 2-deoxyglucose uptake and of terminal labelling were analysed in flat-mount sections of the visual cortices and in frontal sections of the lateral geniculate nuclei. In the lateral geniculate nucleus, regions of increased 2-deoxyglucose uptake are in register with the [3H]proline-labelled laminae of the open eye. In the visual cortex, the hemispheres stimulated with many different orientations showed a rather homogeneous accumulation of 2-deoxyglucose over the entire extent and throughout all layers of area 17. The hemispheres stimulated with a single orientation displayed columnar patterns of orientation domains essentially similar to those obtained with binocular presentation of a single orientation. In particular and despite monocular stimulation, regions of increased 2-deoxyglucose uptake were neither in register with the [3H]proline-labelled terminals of the stimulated eye in layer IV nor confined to columns of neural tissue above and below these terminals. The maximal horizontal offset between the termination sites of thalamic afferents and activated orientation columns was in the order of 400 μm. These findings suggest several conclusions. (i) In the cat visual cortex, binocular convergence seems to occur so early in cortical processing that monocular stimulation with many orientations leads to a rather homogeneous activation of cortical tissue. (ii) From the termination zones of geniculate afferents activity is apparently distributed already within layer IV to the respective orientation columns. (iii) This horizontal spread of activity could be assured by target cells with radially extending dendrites and/or tangentially oriented fibres.