It has been repeatedly reported that spinal motor neurons are selectively vulnerable to AMPA receptor-mediated excitotoxicity. Therefore, identifying the uniqueness of AMPA receptors that are expressed on motor neurons, especially in individuals affected with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is essential for elucidating the etiology of this disorder. The mechanism that initiates motor neuronal death appears to be an exaggerated influx of Ca(2+) through AMPA receptors. The determinants that affect this Ca(2+) influx are Ca(2+) permeability, which is regulated by the presence of the GluR2 subunit and by RNA editing at the Q/R site of GluR2; channel desensitization, which is regulated by alternative splicing at the flip/flop site and by RNA editing at the R/G site of GluR subunits; and receptor density on the cell surface, which is controlled by many factors including regulatory proteins, direct phosphorylation and RNA editing at the Q/R site. This review focuses on recent progress on the molecular dynamics of AMPA receptors and discusses the pathophysiology of selective motor neuron death mediated by AMPA receptors in individuals affected with sporadic ALS.