An 40Ar/39Ar thermochronological investigation of upper greenschist to granulite facies gneiss, amphibolite and marble was conducted in the Central Metasedimentary Belt (CMB), Ontario, to constrain its cooling history. Incremental 40Ar/39Ar release spectra indicate that substantial differential unroofing occurred in the CMB between ??? 1000 and ??? 600 Ma. A consistent pattern of significantly older hornblende and phlogopite 40Ar/3Ar cooling ages on the southeast sides of major northeast striking shear zones is interpreted to reflect late displacement due to extensional deformation. Variations in hornblende 40Ar/39Ar age plateaus exceeding 200 Ma occur over distances less than 50 km with major age discontinuities occurring across the Robertson Lake shear zone and the Sharbot Lake mylonite zone which separate the Sharbot Lake terrane from the Elzevir and Frontenac terranes. Extensional displacements of up to 14 km are inferred between the Frontenac and Elzevir terranes of the CMB. No evidence for significant post argon-closure vertical displacement is indicated in the vicinity of the Perth Road mylonite within the Frontenac terrane. Variations of nearly 100 Ma in phlogopite 40Ar/39Ar plateau ages occur in undeformed marble on either side of the Bancroft Shear Zone. Phlogopites from sheared and mylonitized marble within the shear zone yield 40Ar/39Ar diffusional loss profiles, but have older geologically meaningless ages thought to reflect incorporation of excess argon. By ??? 900 Ma, southeast directed extension was occurring throughout the CMB, possibly initiated along previous zones of compressional shearing. An easterly migration of active zones of extension is inferred, possibly related to an earlier, overall easterly migration of active zones of regional thrusting and easterly migration of an ancient subduction zone. The duration of extensional shearing is not well constrained, but must have ceased before ??? 600 Ma as required by the deposition of overlying undeformed Cambrian and/or Ordovician sedimentary rocks. ?? 1992 Springer-Verlag.