Irregular firing patterns are observed in most central neurons in vivo, but their origin is controversial. Here, we show that two types of inhibitory neurons in the cerebellar cortex fire spontaneously and regularly in the absence of synaptic input but generate an irregular firing pattern in the presence of tonic synaptic inhibition. Paired recordings between synaptically connected neurons revealed that single action potentials in inhibitory interneurons cause highly variable delays in action potential firing in their postsynaptic cells. Activity in single and multiple inhibitory interneurons also significantly reduces postsynaptic membrane time constant and input resistance. These findings suggest that the time window for synaptic integration is a dynamic variable modulated by the level of tonic inhibition, and that rate coding and temporal coding strategies may be used in parallel in the same cell type.