The term "knockdown resistance" is used to describe cases of resistance to diphenylethane (e.g. DDT) and pyrethroid insecticides in insects and other arthropods that result from reduced sensitivity of the nervous system. Knockdown resistance, first identified and characterized in the house fly (Musca domestica) in the 1950's, remains a threat to the continued usefulness of pyrethroids in the control of many pest species. Research since 1990 has provided a wealth of new information on the molecular basis of knockdown resistance. This paper reviews these recent developments with emphasis on the results of genetic linkage analyses, the identification of gene mutations associated with knockdown resistance, and the functional characterization of resistance-associated mutations. Results of these studies identify voltage-sensitive sodium channel genes orthologous to the para gene of Drosophila melanogaster as the site of multiple knockdown resistance mutations and define the molecular mechanisms by which these mutations cause pyrethroid resistance. These results also provide new insight into the mechanisms by which pyrethroids modify the function of voltage-sensitive sodium channels.