Cortical pyramidal cells fire single spikes and complex spike bursts. However, neither the conditions necessary for triggering complex spikes, nor their computational function are well understood. CA1 pyramidal cell burst activity was examined in behaving rats. The fraction of bursts was not reliably higher in place field centers, but rather in places where discharge frequency was 6-7 Hz. Burst probability was lower and bursts were shorter after recent spiking activity than after prolonged periods of silence (100 ms-1 s). Burst initiation probability and burst length were correlated with extracellular spike amplitude and with intracellular action potential rising slope. We suggest that bursts may function as "conditional synchrony detectors," signaling strong afferent synchrony after neuronal silence, and that single spikes triggered by a weak input may suppress bursts evoked by a subsequent strong input.