Sensory signals of widely differing dynamic range and intensity are transformed into a common firing rate code by thalamocortical neurons. While a great deal is known about the ionic currents, far less is known about the specific channel subtypes regulating thalamic firing rates. We hypothesized that different K(+) and Ca(2+) channel subtypes control different stimulus-response curve properties. To define the channels, we measured firing rate while pharmacologically or genetically modulating specific channel subtypes. Inhibiting Kv3.2 K(+) channels strongly suppressed maximum firing rate by impairing membrane potential repolarization, while playing no role in the firing response to threshold stimuli. By contrast, inhibiting Kv1 channels with alpha-dendrotoxin or maurotoxin strongly increased firing rates to threshold stimuli by reducing the membrane potential where action potentials fire (V(th)). Inhibiting SK Ca(2+)-activated K(+) channels with apamin robustly increased gain (slope of the stimulus-response curve) and maximum firing rate, with minimum effects on threshold responses. Inhibiting N-type Ca(2+) channels with omega-conotoxin GVIA or omega-conotoxin MVIIC partially mimicked apamin, while inhibiting L-type and P/Q-type Ca(2+) channels had small or no effects. EPSC-like current injections closely mimicked the results from tonic currents. Our results show that Kv3.2, Kv1, SK potassium and N-type calcium channels strongly regulate thalamic relay neuron sensory transmission and that each channel subtype controls a different stimulus-response curve property. Differential regulation of threshold, gain and maximum firing rate may help vary the stimulus-response properties across and within thalamic nuclei, normalize responses to diverse sensory inputs, and underlie sensory perception disorders.