Despite preserved cell differentiation, the Reln(rl-Orl) phenotype comprises laminar abnormalities of cell position in auditory cortex and dorsal cochlear nucleus. The metabolic consequences of the cell ectopias were determined by estimating cytochrome oxidase (CO) activity, a marker of neuronal activity. CO activity increased in the granular cell layer of dorsal cochlear nucleus, trapezoid body nucleus, intermediate lateral lemniscus, central and external inferior colliculus, and pyramidal cell layer of primary auditory cortex. On the contrary, CO activity decreased in the superficial molecular layer of dorsal cochlear nucleus as well as in the medioventral periolivary nucleus. These metabolic variations are discussed in terms of their possible relation to morphologic anomalies observed in the mutant.