We have investigated how neurons in the optic tecta of embryonic day 16 chick embryos depend for survival on their afferents from the retina. To distinguish between activity-mediated effects and other, “trophic,” ones, we compared the effects on the tectal neurons of blocking intraocular axoplasmic transport (with colchicine) or action potentials (by means of TTX). Both interventions rapidly induced the appearance of dying (pyknotic) neurons in the tectum, with major increases in their number occurring within 13 hr post-colchicine and within 9 hr post-TTX. Following both drugs, the dying neurons were morphologically similar, and in both cases the cell death depended on protein synthesis. However, the effects of colchicine and of TTX could be dissociated, since the most superficial tectal neurons became pyknotic only in response to colchicine, and, with a sufficiently short survival time (9 hr), the deep cells of the stratum griseum centrale became pyknotic only in response to TTX. We hence argue that the survival of the tectal neurons depends on their ongoing maintenance by substances released from retinotectal axon terminals, the release being activity dependent in the case of the deep neurons but independent of activity in the case of the superficial ones.