The firing rate of individual neurons depends on the firing frequency of their distributed synaptic inputs, with linear and nonlinear relations subserving different computational functions. This letter explores the relationship between the degree of synchrony among excitatory synapses and the linearity of the response using detailed compartmental models of cortical pyramidal cells. Synchronous input resulted in a linear input-output relationship, while asynchronous stimulation yielded sub- and supraproportional outputs at low and high frequencies, respectively. The dependence of input-output linearity on synchrony was sigmoidal and considerably robust with respect to dendritic location, stimulus irregularity, and alteration of active and synaptic properties. Moreover, synchrony affected firing rate differently at lower and higher input frequencies. A reduced integrate-and-fire model suggested a mechanism explaining these results based on spatiotemporal integration, with fundamental implications relating synchrony to memory encoding.

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