The intrinsic electrical properties of neurons are shaped in large part by the action of voltage-gated ion channels. Molecular cloning studies have revealed a large family of ion channel genes, many of which are expressed in mammalian brain. Much recent effort has focused on determining the contribution of the protein products of these genes to neuronal function. This requires knowledge of the abundance and distribution of the constituent subunits of the channels in specific mammalian central neurons. Here we review progress made in recent studies aimed at localizing specific ion channel subunits using in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry. We then discuss the implications of these results in terms of neuronal physiology and neuronal mechanisms underlying the observed patterns of expression.