The simultaneous discharge of hippocampal CA3 pyramidal cells is a widely studied in vitro model of physiological and pathological network synchronization. This network is rapidly activated because of extensive positive feedback mediated by recurrent axon collaterals. Here we show that population-burst duration is limited by depletion of the releasable glutamate pool at these recurrent synapses. Postsynaptic inhibitory conductances further limit burst duration but are not necessary for burst termination. The interval between bursts in vitro depends on the rate of replenishment of releasable glutamate vesicles and the probability of release of those vesicles at recurrent synapses. Therefore presynaptic factors controlling glutamate release at recurrent synapses regulate the probability and duration of synchronous discharges of the CA3 network.