Abstract Laminins form a family of large multidomain glycoproteins of the extracellular matrix. The cellular distribution of laminin immunoreactivity in the adult mammalian central nervous system suggests an important role for laminins in mature brain function in addition to their role during brain development. To characterize the effects of this group of extracellular matrix molecules on mature brain function, intracellular recording techniques were applied to in vitro slice preparations of the rat neocortex. The experiments show that a peptide homologous to the C-terminal part of the γ 1 chain of laminin modulates the electrical activity of pyramidal neurons in the adult neocortex of the rat. The peptide is part of the neurite outgrowth-promoting domain of the γ 1 chain on the E8 fragment of laminin and it displays the neurite outgrowth-promoting activity of the native laminin molecule. Perfusion of in vitro brain slices with the peptide increased the input resistance of the neuronal membrane. In addition, a rise in inward rectification could be observed. These events were accompanied by a strong increase in direct excitability of the treated neurons. Immunohistochemistry techniques were applied to sections of the adult rat neocortex and hippocampus to demonstrate the presence of both the neurite outgrowth-promoting domain and the native laminin in the adult brain. An antiserum raised against the neurite outgrowth-promoting domain on the γ 1 chain of laminin, which also recognized the free synthetic peptide, showed immunoreactivity on neurons. In addition, a population of glial fibrillary acidic protein-positive astrocytes in the hippocampus displayed immunoreactivity for this antibody. These results were confirmed by using several antibodies directed against the whole laminin-1 molecule. Neurons in the neocortex and hippocampus, as well as astrocytes in the hippocampus, demonstrated immunoreactivity for antibodies directed against the whole laminin-1 molecule. The results suggest that laminins containing the γ 1 chain have the potential to modulate neuronal activity. This effect may be mediated either by direct cell–cell contact from surrounding cells, or through the neuronal expression of laminin or laminin-like molecules which are inserted into the neuronal cell membrane.