Optical recording methods using voltage-sensitive dyes were used to monitor activity in rat somatosensory cortex. We measured evoked signals in response to whisker stimulation before (control) and after the addition of the epileptogenic agent, bicuculline, and also detected spontaneous interictal events that occurred after bicuculline. Bicuculline led to an increase in the size, duration, cortical extent, and, surprisingly, the latency of the evoked responses. These enhanced evoked responses appeared to originate in the region of the control response and propagate outward. In contrast, the spontaneous signals appeared to originate at random cortical positions and had a more variable cortical extent. A transition signal measured just after the addition of bicuculline was larger than the control response but localized and rapid in time course. In most cases, there was a good correlation between the optical recordings and field potential measurements made with a ball electrode on the cortical surface, but there were occasional instances where the optical signal disappeared while the ball electrode signal was unchanged.