Thalamic neurons generate high-frequency bursts of action potentials when a low-threshold (T-type) calcium current, located in soma and dendrites, becomes activated. Computational models were used to investigate the bursting properties of thalamic relay and reticular neurons. These two types of thalamic cells differ fundamentally in their ability to generate bursts following either excitatory or inhibitory events. Bursts generated with excitatory inputs in relay cells required a high degree of convergence from excitatory inputs, whereas moderate excitation drove burst discharges in reticular neurons from hyperpolarized levels. The opposite holds for inhibitory rebound bursts, which are more difficult to evoke in reticular neurons than in relay cells. The differences between the reticular neurons and thalamocortical neurons were due to different kinetics of the T-current, different electrotonic properties and different distribution patterns of the T-current in the two cell types. These properties enable the cortex to control the sensitivity of the thalamus to inputs and are also important for understanding states such as absence seizures.