Photolysis of a caged Ca(2+) compound was used to characterize the dependence of cerebellar long-term synaptic depression (LTD) on postsynaptic Ca(2+) concentration ([Ca(2+)](i)). Elevating [Ca(2+)](i) was sufficient to induce LTD without requiring any of the other signals produced by synaptic activity. A sigmoidal relationship between [Ca(2+)](i) and LTD indicated a highly cooperative triggering of LTD by Ca(2+). The duration of the rise in [Ca(2+)](i) influenced the apparent Ca(2+) affinity of LTD, and this time-dependent behavior could be described by a leaky integrator process with a time constant of 0.6 s. A computational model, based on a positive-feedback cycle that includes protein kinase C and MAP kinase, was capable of simulating these properties of Ca(2+)-triggered LTD. Disrupting this cycle experimentally also produced the predicted changes in the Ca(2+) dependence of LTD. We conclude that LTD arises from a mechanism that integrates postsynaptic Ca(2+) signals and that this integration may be produced by the positive-feedback cycle.