Several theories have proposed a functional role for synchronous neuronal firing in generating the neural code of a sensory perception. Synchronous neural activity develops during a critical postnatal period of cortical maturation, and severely reducing neural activity in a sensory pathway during this period could interfere with the development of coincident discharge among cortical neurons. Loss of such synchrony could provide a fundamental mechanism for the degradation of acuity shown in behavioral studies. We tested the hypothesis that synchronous discharge of barrel cortex neurons would fail to develop after sensory deprivation produced by bilateral whisker trimming from birth to postnatal day 60. By studying the correlated discharge of cortical neuron pairs, we found evidence for strong correlated firing in control animals, and this synchrony was almost absent among pairs of cortical barrel neurons in deprived animals. The degree of synchrony impairment was different in subregions of rat barrel cortex. The model that best fits the data is that cortical neurons receiving direct inputs from the primary sensory (lemniscal) pathway show the greatest decrement in synchrony following sensory deprivation, while neurons with diverse inputs from other areas of thalamus and cortex are relatively less affected in this dimension of cortical function.