In contrast to our knowledge about the anatomical development of the mammalian central auditory system, the development of its physiological properties is still poorly understood. In order to better understand the physiological properties of the developing mammalian auditory brainstem, we made intracellular recordings in brainstem slices from perinatal rats to examine synaptic transmission in the superior olivary complex, the first binaural station in the ascending auditory pathway. We concentrated on neurons in the lateral superior olive (LSO), which in adults, are excited from the ipsilateral side and inhibited from the contralateral side. Already at embryonic day (E) 18, when axon collaterals begin to invade the LSO anlage, synaptic potentials could be evoked from ipsilateral, as well as from contralateral inputs. Ipsilaterally elicited PSPs were always depolarizing, regardless of age. They had a positive reversal potential and could be completely blocked by the non-NMDA glutamate receptor antagonist CNQX. In contrast, contralaterally elicited PSPs were depolarizing from E18-P4, yet they turned into “adult-like,#x201D; hyperpolarizing PSPs after P8. Their reversal potential shifted dramatically from -21.6 +/- 17.7 mV (E18-P0) to -73.0 +/- 7.1 mV (P10). Regardless of their polarity, contralaterally elicited PSPs were reversibly blocked by the glycine receptor antagonist strychnine. Bath application of glycine and its agonist beta-alanine further confirmed the transitory depolarizing action of glycine in the auditory brainstem. Since the transient excitatory behavior of glycine occurs during a period during which glycinergic synaptic connections in the LSO are refined by activity- dependent mechanisms, glycinergic excitation might be a mechanism by which synaptic rearrangement in the contralateral inhibitory pathway is accomplished.