This study explores the nature of population coding in sensory cortex by applying information theoretic analyses to neuron pairs recorded simultaneously from rat barrel cortex. We quantified the roles of individual spikes and spike patterns in encoding whisker stimulus location. 82%-85% of the total information was contained in the timing of individual spikes: first spike time was particularly crucial. Spike patterns within neurons accounted for the remaining 15%-18%. Neuron pairs located in the same barrel column coded redundantly, whereas pairs in neighboring barrel columns coded independently. The barrel cortical population code for stimulus location appears to be the time of single neurons' first poststimulus spikes-a fast, robust coding mechanism that does not rely on "synergy" in crossneuronal spike patterns.