The influence of basic open-loop synaptic connections on the firing of simultaneously recorded neurons has been investigated with auto- and cross-correlation histograms, using experimental records and computer simulations. The basic connections examined were direct synaptic excitation, direct synaptic inhibition, and shared synaptic input. Each type of synaptic connection produces certain characteristic features in the cross-correlogram depending on the properties of the synapse and statistical features in the firing pattern of each neuron. Thus, empirically derived cross-correlation measures can be interpreted in terms of the underlying physiological mechanisms. Their potential uses and limitations in the detection and identification of synaptic connections between neurons whose extracellularly recorded spike trains are available are discussed.