1. High-speed fluorescence imaging was used to measure intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) changes in hippocampal neurons injected with the Ca(2+)-sensitive indicator fura-2 during intrasomatic and synaptic stimulation. The results of these experiments were used to construct a biophysical model of [Ca2+]i dynamics in hippocampal neurons. 2. A compartmental model of a pyramidal neuron was constructed incorporating published passive membrane properties of these cells, three types of voltage-gated Ca2+ channels characterized from adult hippocampal neurons, voltage-gated Na+ and K+ currents, and mechanisms for Ca2+ buffering and extrusion. 3. In hippocampal pyramidal neurons imaging of Na+ entry during electrical activity suggests that Na+ channels, at least in sufficient density to sustain action potentials, are localized in the soma and the proximal part of the apical dendritic tree. The model, which incorporates this distribution, demonstrates that action potentials attenuate steeply in passive distal dendritic compartments or distal dendritic compartments containing Ca2+ and K+ channels. This attenuation was affected by intracellular resistivity but not membrane resistivity. 4. Consistent with fluorescence imaging experiments, a non-uniform distribution of Ca2+ accumulation was generated by Ca2+ entry through voltage-gated Ca2+ channels opened by decrementally propagating Na+ action potentials. Consequently, the largest increases in [C2+]i were produced in the proximal dendrites. Distal voltage-gated Ca2+ currents were activated by broad, almost isopotential action potentials produced by reducing the overall density of K+ channels. 5. Simulations of subthreshold synaptic stimulation produced dendritic Ca2+ entry by the activation of voltage-gated Ca2+ channels. In the model these Ca2+ signals were localized near the site of synaptic input because of the attenuation of synaptic potentials with distance from the site of origin and the steep voltage-dependence of Ca2+ channel activation. 6. These simulations support the hypotheses generated from experimental evidence regarding the differential distribution of voltage-gated Ca2+ and Na+ channels in hippocampal neurons and the resulting voltage-gated Ca2+ accumulation from action and synaptic potentials.