Abstract Recent experiments focusing on the function of the immunological synapse formed between a T cell and an antigen-presenting cell raise many questions about its purpose. We examine the proposal that the close apposition of the cell membranes in the central region of the synapse acts to focus T-cell secretions on the target cell, thus reducing the effect on nearby cells. We show that the efficiency of targeted T-cell responses to closely apposed cells is only weakly dependent on the distance between the cells. We also calculate effective (diffusion-limited) rates of binding and unbinding for molecules secreted within the synapse. We apply our model to the stimulation of B cells by secreted interleukin-4 (IL-4), and find that very few molecules of IL-4 need be released to essentially saturate the IL-4 receptors on the B-cell surface.