1. This paper describes two novel population patterns in the dentate gyrus of the awake rat, termed type 1 and type 2 dentate spikes (DS1, DS2). Their cellular generation and spatial distribution were examined by simultaneous recording of field potentials and unit activity using multiple-site silicon probes and wire electrode arrays. 2. Dentate spikes were large amplitude (2-4 mV), short duration (< 30 ms) field potentials that occurred sparsely during behavioral immobility and slow-wave sleep. Current-source density analysis revealed large sinks in the outer (DS1) and middle (DS2) thirds of the dentate molecular layer, respectively. DS1 and DS2 had similar longitudinal, lateral, and interhemispheric synchrony. 3. Dentate spikes invariably were coupled to synchronous population bursts of putative hilar interneurons. CA3 pyramidal cells, on the other hand were suppressed during dentate spikes. 4. After bilateral removal of the entorhinal cortex, dentate spikes disappeared, whereas sharp wave-associated bursts, reflecting synchronous discharge of the CA3-CA1 network, increased several fold. 5. These physiological characteristics of the dentate spikes suggest that they are triggered by a population burst of layer II stellate cells of the lateral (DS1) and medial (DS2) entorhinal cortex. 6. We suggest that dentate spike-associated synchronized bursts of hilar-region interneurons provide a suppressive effect on the excitability of the CA3-CA1 network in the intact brain.