Interleukin (IL)-18 is a potent inflammatory cytokine of the IL-1 family. It is synthesized as an inactive precursor (pro-IL-18), which is cleaved into its functionally active form by caspase-1. Resident cells of the CNS express IL-18 and caspase-1 constitutively, thus providing a local IL-18-dependent immune response. Recent studies have highlighted a crucial role for IL-18 in mediating neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration in the CNS under pathological conditions, such as bacterial and viral infection, autoimmune demyelinating disease, and hypoxic-ischemic, hyperoxic and traumatic brain injuries. This review provides a synopsis of the current knowledge of IL-18-dependent mechanisms of action during acute neurodegeneration in immature and adult brains.