The organization of primary somatosensory cortex was examined in chronic spinal cats that had sustained cord transection at T12 at 3 ages: 2 and 6 weeks of age, and as adults. Five months to 1 yr following transection, the deprived cortex was mapped electrophysiologically (multiunit recordings). The topographical organization found at each age was compared to that present in normal adults to study effects of developmental age on the ability of the somatosensory system to adjust to changes in afferent input. Cortical responses to deprivation of somatosensory input were age dependent. In animals cord transected at 2 weeks of age, the remaining somatic afferent input excited both its normal cortical area and the area normally reserved for the hindlimb. This resulted in 2 somatotopic maps of the rostral trunk and forelimb. In contrast, in cats spinalized at 6 weeks of age, there was only 1 map for the remaining somatosensory input that was distributed across the mediolateral axis of the primary somatosensory cortex. As a result, the remaining somatosensory input was shifted medially from its normal position and was narrower with respect to the rostrocaudal area driven by light tactile input. The amount of cortex that each body region could excite was essentially the same as in normal animals. In adults, a third response was observed; regions normally devoted to forelimb and trunk appeared to be unchanged, and the region previously serving the hindlimb responded only to a limited extent, and only to tactile stimulation of the trunk. In all cases, however, some sites in the cortex could be excited by parts of the body that in normal animals were served by cortical regions from 3 to 10 mm away, a distance much in excess of the maximum extent of reported thalamocortical overlap. We suggest that the various patterns of cortical organization observed at different ages reflect different developmental processes that are active at the time of transection. Further, we hypothesize that often, in major denervations such as spinal cord transection, a significant component of the reorganization occurs at synaptic levels below the cortex in young animals.