Cortactin is an F-actin-associated protein which interacts with the postsynaptic scaffolding protein Shank at the SH3 domain and is localized within the dendritic spine in the mouse neuron. Green fluorescent protein (GFP)-based time-lapse imaging revealed cortactin redistribution from dendritic cytoplasm to postsynaptic sites by application of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This response was mediated by mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase activation and was dependent on the C-terminal SH3 domain. In contrast, activation of N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors induced loss of cortactin from postsynaptic sites. This NMDA-dependent redistribution was blocked by an Src family kinase inhibitor. Conversely, increasing Src family kinase activity induced cortactin phosphorylation and loss of cortactin from the postsynaptic sites. Finally, blocking of endogenous BDNF reduced the amount of cortactin at the postsynaptic sites and an NMDA receptor antagonist prevented this reduction. These results indicate the importance of counterbalance between BDNF and NMDA receptor-mediated signalling in the reorganization of the postsynaptic actin cytoskeleton during neuronal development.