Changes in visual cortical responses that are induced by monocular visual deprivation are a widely studied example of competitive, experience-dependent neural plasticity. It has been thought that the deprived-eye pathway will fail to compete against the open-eye pathway for limited amounts of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which acts on TrkB and is needed to sustain effective synaptic connections. We tested this model by using a chemical-genetic approach in mice to inhibit TrkB kinase activity rapidly and specifically during the induction of cortical plasticity in vivo. Contrary to the model, TrkB kinase activity was not required for any of the effects of monocular deprivation. When the deprived eye was re-opened during the critical period, cortical responses to it recovered. This recovery was blocked by TrkB inhibition. These findings suggest a more conventional trophic role for TrkB signaling in the enhancement of responses or growth of new connections, rather than a role in competition.