Many cerebellar neurons fire spontaneously, generating 10-100 action potentials per second even without synaptic input. This high basal activity correlates with information-coding mechanisms that differ from those of cells that are quiescent until excited synaptically. For example, in the deep cerebellar nuclei, Hebbian patterns of coincident synaptic excitation and postsynaptic firing fail to induce long-term increases in the strength of excitatory inputs. Instead, excitatory synaptic currents are potentiated by combinations of inhibition and excitation that resemble the activity of Purkinje and mossy fiber afferents that is predicted to occur during cerebellar associative learning tasks. Such results indicate that circuits with intrinsically active neurons have rules for information transfer and storage that distinguish them from other brain regions.