It has been shown previously that background synaptic noise modulates the response gain of neocortical neurons. However, the role of the statistical properties of the noise in modulating firing rate is not known. Here, the dependence of firing rate on the statistical properties of the excitatory to inhibitory balance (EI) in cortical pyramidal neurons was studied. Excitatory glutamatergic and inhibitory GABAergic synaptic conductances were simulated as two stochastic processes and injected into individual neurons in vitro through use of the dynamic-clamp system. Response gain was significantly modulated as a function of the statistical interactions between excitatory and inhibitory synaptic conductances. Firing rates were compared for noisy synaptic conductance steps by varying either the EI correlation or the relative delay between correlated E and I. When inhibitory synaptic conductances exhibited a short temporal delay (5 ms) relative to correlated excitatory synaptic conductances, the response gain was increased compared with noise with no temporal delay but with an equivalent degree of correlation. The dependence of neuronal firing rate on the EI delay of the noisy background synaptic conductance suggests that individual excitatory pyramidal neurons are sensitive to the EI balance of the synaptic conductance. Therefore the statistical EI interactions encoded within the synaptic subthreshold membrane fluctuations are able to modulate neuronal firing properties.