Using light and electron microscopic methods, we investigated the development and morphology of neurons in neocortical slice cultures. Slices taken from the visual cortex of 6-day-old rats and cultivated for 14 or 20 days were compared with in situ material of corresponding age (P 20 and P 26). Maturation and differentiation of pyramidal and non-pyramidal cells kept in vitro were found to have progressed considerably. In the light microscope the neurons exhibited a morphological appearance strikingly similar to that of the neurons of the neocortex in situ at the same age. The fine structure of the tissue in vitro also had a mature appearance, corresponding in most respects to the material in situ. Synapses and dendritic spines were well-developed. Sometimes a spine apparatus was contained in the sections and occasionally a myelinated fiber could be seen. GABA-immunoreactive cells making symmetric synaptic contacts were also present. Despite these similarities, some quantitative differences could be observed. In slice cultures, only 52% of the synapses were located on spines (78% in situ). In vitro, a larger proportion of synapses (30%) showed a postsynaptically concave curvature than was the case in situ (12%). The areal density of synapses in vitro reached only about 70% of that in situ. This was probably a side-effect of the larger size of dendritic and axonal profiles on electron micrographs of in vitro-material. The most striking difference was that large synapses and synapses containing a large amount of synaptic vesicles were considerably more frequent in vitro than in situ.