Glutamate alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionic acid (AMPA) receptors mediate most of the excitatory neurotransmission in the mammalian central nervous system and also participate in forms of synaptic plasticity thought to underlie memory and learning, and the formation of neural networks during development. Molecular cloning techniques have shown that the AMPA receptor family is composed of four different subunits named GluR1-4 or GluRA-D (newly termed as Glu(A1)-Glu(A4)) and native AMPA receptors are most likely tetramers generated by the assembly of one or more of these subunits, yielding homomeric or heteromeric receptors. Additional complexity among AMPA receptors is conferred by alternative splicing of RNA for each subunit giving rise to flip and flop variants. Clinical and experimental data have suggested that positive modulation of AMPA receptors may be therapeutically effective in the treatment of cognitive deficits. Several classes of AMPA receptor potentiators have been reported, including pyrroliddones (piracetam, aniracetam), benzothiazides (cyclothiazide), benzylpiperidines (CX-516, CX-546) and more recently biarylpropylsulfonamides (LY392098, LY404187 and LY503430). These molecules enhance cognitive function in rodents, which appears to correlate with increased hippocampal activity. In addition, clinical studies have suggested that AMPA receptor modulators enhance cognitive function in elderly subjects, as well as patients suffering from neurological and psychiatric disorders. Several independent studies have suggested that AMPA receptors can increase BDNF expression by both calcium-dependent and independent pathways. For example, recent studies have shown that AMPA receptors interact with the protein tyrosine kinase, Lyn. Activation of Lyn can recruit the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signalling pathway and increase the expression of BDNF. Therefore, in addition to directly enhancing glutamatergic synaptic transmission, AMPA receptor activation can increase the expression of BDNF in vitro and in vivo. This may account for activity of AMPA receptor potentiators in rodent models predictive of antidepressant activity (forced swim and tail suspension tests). The increase in neurotrophin expression also may contribute to the functional, neuroprotective and neurotrophic actions of LY404187 and LY503430 after infusion of 6-OHDA into the substantia nigra. In conclusion, several potent, selective and systemically active AMPA receptor potentiators have been reported. Data indicate that these molecules modulate glutamatergic transmission, enhance synaptic transmission, long-term potentiation (LTP) and increase neurotrophin expression. Therefore, these AMPA receptor potentiators offer an exciting new class of drugs with potential for treating (1) cognitive impairment associated with Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia, (2) depression, (3) slowing the progression and potentially enhancing recovery from Parkinson's disease.