Cognitive processing requires integration of information processed simultaneously in spatially distinct areas of the brain. The influence that two brain areas exert on each others activity is usually governed by an unknown function, which is likely to have nonlinear terms. If the functional relationship between activities in different areas is dominated by the nonlinear terms, linear measures of correlation may not detect the statistical interdependency satisfactorily. Therefore, algorithms for detecting nonlinear dependencies may prove invaluable for characterizing the functional coupling in certain neuronal systems, conditions or pathologies. Synchronization likelihood (SL) is a method based on the concept of generalized synchronization and detects nonlinear and linear dependencies between two signals (Stam, C.J., van Dijk, B.W., 2002. Synchronization likelihood: An unbiased measure of generalized synchronization in multivariate data sets. Physica D, 163: 236-241.). SL relies on the detection of simultaneously occurring patterns, which can be complex and widely different in the two signals. Clinical studies applying SL to electro- or magnetoencephalography (EEG/MEG) signals have shown promising results. In previous implementations of the algorithm, however, a number of parameters have lacked a rigorous definition with respect to the time-frequency characteristics of the underlying physiological processes. Here we introduce a rationale for choosing these parameters as a function of the time-frequency content of the patterns of interest. The number of parameters that can be arbitrarily chosen by the user of the SL algorithm is thereby decreased from six to two. Empirical evidence for the advantages of our proposal is given by an application to EEG data of an epileptic seizure and simulations of two unidirectionally coupled Hénon systems.