The effects of aniracetam on extracellular amino acid levels in the hippocampus of conscious gerbils, with or without transient cerebral ischemia/reperfusion, were measured by microdialysis and reverse phase-high performance liquid chromatography. Increased extracellular levels of aspartate and glutamate that were observed in the hippocampus of conscious gerbils during transient global forebrain ischemia were reversed by aniracetam. In contrast, the level of extracellular gamma-aminobutyric acid was increased, while taurine was maintained at a higher level than other amino acids by administration of aniracetam (100 mg/kg, p.o.) 60 min before ischemia. Further, in contrast to ischemic animals, administration of aniracetam (100 mg/kg, p.o.) enhanced the release of glutamate and aspartate in the normal gerbil hippocampus. The results suggest that these effects might be due to a partial calcium agonist activity of aniracetam, and that the effects of aniracetam on amino acid levels might be a mechanism of protection against delayed neuronal death in the ischemic hippocampus, thereby improving memory dysfunction induced by ischemia/reperfusion.