Neocortical pyramidal neurons express several different calcium channel types. Previous studies with square voltage steps have found modest biophysical differences between these calcium channel types as well as differences in their modulation by transmitters. We used acutely dissociated neocortical pyramidal neurons to test whether this diversity extends to different activation by physiological stimuli. We conclude that 1) peak amplitude, latency to peak, and the total charge entry for the Ca(2+) channel current is dependent on the shape of the mock action potential waveforms (APWs). 2) The percent contribution of the five high-voltage-activated currents to the whole cell current was not altered by using an APW as opposed to a voltage step to elicit the current. 3) The identity of the charge carrier affects the amplitude and decay of the whole cell current. With Ca(2+), there was a greater contribution of T-type current to the whole cell current. 4) Total Ba(2+) charge entry is linearly dependent on the number of spikes in the stimulating waveform and relatively insensitive to spike frequency. 5) Current decay was greatest with Ca(2+) as the charge carrier and with minimal internal chelation. 6) Voltage-dependent neurotransmitter-mediated modulations can be reversed by multiple spikes. The extent of the reversal is dependent on the number of spikes in the stimulating waveform. Thus the neuronal activity pattern can determine the effectiveness of voltage-dependent and -independent modulatory pathways in neocortical pyramidal neurons.