Excitotoxicity refers to the ability of glutamate or related excitatory amino acids to mediate the death of central neurons under certain conditions, for example, after intense exposure. Such excitotoxic neuronal death may contribute to the pathogenesis of brain or spinal cord injury associated with several human disease states. Excitotoxicity has substantial cellular specificity and, in most cases, is mediated by glutamate receptors. On average, NMDA receptors activation may be able to trigger lethal injury more rapidly than AMPA or kainate receptor activation, perhaps reflecting a greater ability to induce calcium influx and subsequent cellular calcium overload. It is possible that excitotoxic death may share some mechanisms with other forms of neuronal death.