Spike-frequency adaptation in neocortical pyramidal neurons was examined using the whole cell patch-clamp technique and a phenomenological model of neuronal activity. Noisy current was injected to reproduce the irregular firing typically observed under in vivo conditions. The response was quantified by computing the poststimulus histogram (PSTH). To simulate the spiking activity of a pyramidal neuron, we considered anintegrate-and-fire model to which an adaptation current was added. A simplified model for the mean firing rate of an adapting neuron under noisy conditions is also presented. The mean firing rate model provides a good fit to both experimental and simulation PSTHs and may therefore be used to study the response characteristics of adapting neurons to various input currents. The models enable identification of the relevant parameters of adaptation that determine the shape of the PSTH and allow the computation of the response to any change in injected current. The results suggest that spike frequency adaptation determines a preferred frequency of stimulation for which the phase delay of a neuron's activity relative to an oscillatory input is zero. Simulations show that the preferred frequency of single neurons dictates the frequency of emergent population rhythms in large networks of adapting neurons. Adaptation could therefore be one of the crucial factors in setting the frequency of population rhythms in the neocortex.