We compared the effects of common excitatory and inhibitory inputs on motoneuron synchronization by simulating synaptic inputs with injected current transients. We elicited repetitive discharge in hypoglossal motoneurons recorded in slices of rat brain stem using a combination of a suprathreshold injected current step with superimposed noise to mimic the synaptic drive likely to occur during physiological activation. The effects of common inputs to motoneurons were simulated by the addition of a waveform composed of from 6 to 300 trains of current transients designed to mimic excitatory and/or inhibitory synaptic currents. We compared the discharge records obtained in several trials in which the same "common input" waveform was applied repeatedly in the presence of different background noise waveforms. The effects of the common input on motoneuron discharge probability and discharge rate were determined by compiling a cross-correlation histogram (CCHist) and a perispike frequency gram (PSFreq) between the discharges of the same cell at different times. Both excitatory and inhibitory common inputs induced synchronous discharge that was evident by a large central peak in the CCHist. The CCHists produced by common excitatory inputs were characterized by larger and narrower central peaks than those generated by common inhibitory inputs. The PSFreqs produced by common excitatory inputs indicated an increase in the discharge rate of motoneurons around time 0 that coincided with the narrow and large central peak in the CCHist. On the other hand, inhibitory inputs often generated very little, if any, change in the discharge rate around time 0 corresponding with the small and wide central peak in the CCHist. These results suggest that the CCHist indicates the effective strength of the net common input but not its sign. Although correlated changes in discharge rate are often quite different for net excitatory and inhibitory common input, except in some restricted conditions, the PSFreq analysis also cannot be used to unambiguously distinguish net excitation from net inhibition.