The ascidian Ciona intestinalis is a useful model for the study of nervous system development and function. The larva of this animal represents a 'primitive' vertebrate form that contains only about 100 neurons in the CNS. Although embryos can be easily subjected to genetic manipulation, the nervous system cells are not easily accessible for neurophysiological study at the larval stage. To remedy this problem, we have developed a method to obtain primary cell cultures from the larval stage of Ciona. Light microscopy and electrophysiology discriminate several types of cells including neurons and photoreceptors. The results show that in Ciona primary cultures different types of neurons as well as neurite sprouting and synapse formation can be visualised. Ciona primary cell cultures will be very useful to study the biochemical, molecular and biophysical properties of individual cells in the larval nervous system of C. intestinalis.