Oligodendrocytes are crucial to the function of the mammalian brain: they increase the action potential conduction speed for a given axon diameter and thus facilitate the rapid flow of information between different brain areas. The proliferation and differentiation of developing oligodendrocytes, and their myelination of axons, are partly controlled by neurotransmitters. In addition, in models of conditions like stroke, periventricular leukomalacia leading to cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis, oligodendrocytes are damaged by glutamate and, contrary to dogma, it has recently been discovered that this damage is mediated in part by N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors. Mutations in oligodendrocyte neurotransmitter receptors or their interacting proteins may cause defects in CNS function. Here we review the roles of neurotransmitter receptors in the normal function, and malfunction in pathological conditions, of oligodendrocytes.