How does each ingrowing retinal fiber select the right spot in the overall retinotopic projection? Chemospecific surface interactions appear to be sufficient only to organize a crude retinotopic map on the tectum during regeneration of the optic nerve of goldfish. Precise retinotopic ordering is achieved via an activity-dependent stabilization of appropriate synapses, based on the correlated activity of neighboring ganglion cells of the same receptive field type in the retina. Four treatments have been found to block the sharpening process: 1) blocking activity of the ganglion cells with intraocular tetrodotoxin (TTX); 2) rearing in total darkness; 3) correlated activation of all ganglion cells via stroboscopic illumination in a featureless environment; 4) block of retinotectal synaptic transmission with alpha-bungarotoxin. These experiments support a role for normal visually driven activity in sharpening the diffuse projection, and demonstrate that the correlated activity of the optic fibers interacts within the postsynaptic cells, probably through the summation of excitatory postsynaptic potentials. Intraocular TTX experiments suggest that a similar mechanism may drive both the formation of ocular dominance patches in fish tectum and kitten visual cortex and the segregation of different receptive field types in the lateral geniculate nucleus. Thus, it may be a general mechanism whereby the diffuse projections of early development are brought to a mature level of organization.