Human and animal model studies of sensorimotor gating allow us to understand the functional significance of attentional abnormalities and monoaminergic alterations in patients with schizophrenic disorders. Clinically, schizophrenic patients report oversensitivity to sensory stimulation that theoretically correlates with stimulus overload and leads to cognitive fragmentation. Paradigms using cortical event-related potentials and the prepulse inhibition of startle responses show that schizophrenic patients also have impaired central nervous system inhibition (sensorimotor gating). Animal model studies demonstrate that increased systemic aminergic activity and increased nucleus accumbens dopamine tone causes sensorimotor gating failure, similar to that seen in schizophrenic patients. The time course of the observed schizophrenic and animal model deficits is compatible with the "temporal map" of monoaminergic neuron functions (le, several hundred milliseconds). Studies of sensorimotor gating allow investigators to comment on the spatial and temporal mapping of neurons, trait and state deficits, and vulnerability factors in the schizophrenic spectrum of disorders. By translating attentional theories into testable hypotheses, the neurobiology of schizophrenic disorders becomes clearer.