Pyramidal neurons are characterized by their distinct apical and basal dendritic trees and the pyramidal shape of their soma. They are found in several regions of the CNS and, although the reasons for their abundance remain unclear, functional studies--especially of CA1 hippocampal and layer V neocortical pyramidal neurons--have offered insights into the functions of their unique cellular architecture. Pyramidal neurons are not all identical, but some shared functional principles can be identified. In particular, the existence of dendritic domains with distinct synaptic inputs, excitability, modulation and plasticity appears to be a common feature that allows synapses throughout the dendritic tree to contribute to action-potential generation. These properties support a variety of coincidence-detection mechanisms, which are likely to be crucial for synaptic integration and plasticity.