Cell-attached recording provides a way to record the activity of - and to stimulate - neurons in brain slices without rupturing the cell membrane. This review uses theory and experimental data to address the proper application of this technique and the correct interpretation of the data. Voltage-clamp mode is best-suited for recording cell firing activity, and current-clamp mode is best-suited for recording resting membrane potential and synaptic potentials. The magnitude of the seal resistance determines what types of experiments can be accomplished with a cell-attached recording: a loose seal is adequate for recording action potential currents, and a tight seal is required for evoking action potentials in the attached cell and for recording resting and synaptic potentials. When recording action potential currents, if the researcher does not want to change the firing activity of the cell, then it is important that no current passes from the amplifier through the patch resistance. In order to accomplish this condition, the recording pipette should be held at the potential that gives a holding current of 0. An advantage of cell-attached current-clamp over whole-cell recording is that it accurately depicts whether a synaptic potential is hyperpolarizing or depolarizing without the risk of changing its polarity.