Abstract Although nerve growth factor (NGF) is a crucial factor in the activity-dependent development and plasticity of visual cortex, its role in synaptic efficacy changes is largely undefined. We demonstrate that the maintenance phase of long-term potentiation (LTP) is blocked by local application of exogenous NGF in rat visual cortex at an early stage of postnatal development. Long-term depression (LTD) and bidirectional plasticity are unaffected. At later postnatal ages, blockade of either endogenous NGF by immunoadhesin (TrkA-IgG) or TrkA receptors by monoclonal antibody rescues LTP. Muscarinic receptor activation/inhibition suggests that LTP dependence on NGF is mediated by the cholinergic system. These results indicate that NGF regulates synaptic strength in well-characterized cortical circuitries.