Neurons of the locus coeruleus (LC) fire action potentials spontaneously in vitro in the absence of any stimulation. This spontaneous activity is thought to arise from intrinsic membrane properties that include a balance between at least two ion conductances. One is a persistent inward sodium current that is active near the threshold for action potential generation. The second is a calcium-dependent potassium current that is activated following the entry of calcium during the action potential, is responsible for the after-hyperpolarization following the action potential, and decays over a period of 1–2 sec following the action potential. The spontaneous activity of LC neurons can be altered by both excitatory and inhibitory synaptic inputs. One excitatory input has been described that is mediated by glutamate receptors of both the non-NMDA and NMDA subtypes. Inhibitory synaptic potentials include those mediated by GABA (acting on GABAA-receptors), glycine (acting on a strychnine-sensitive receptor) and noradrenaline (acting on α2-adrenoceptors). The presence of synaptic potentials mediated by these transmitters, studied in vitro, correlate with studies made in vivo and with histochemical identification of synaptic inputs to the locus coeruleus.