For a model cortical neuron with three active conductances, we studied the dependence of the firing rate on the degree of synchrony in its synaptic inputs. The effect of synchrony was determined as a function of three parameters: number of inputs, average input frequency, and the synaptic strength (maximal unitary conductance change). Synchrony alone could increase the cell's firing rate when the product of these three parameters was below a critical value. But for higher values of the three parameters, synchrony could reduce firing rate. Instantaneous responses to time-varying input firing rates were close to predictions from steady-state responses when input synchrony was high, but fell below steady-state responses when input synchrony was low. Effectiveness of synaptic transmission, measured by the peak area of cross-correlations between input and output spikes, increased with increasing synchrony.