Neurotransmitters and neuromodulators are essential for normal nervous system development. Disturbances in the expression timetable or intensity of neurotransmitter signalling during critical periods of brain development can lead to permanent damage. Neuroactive drugs and environmental toxins interfere with neurotransmitter signalling and may thereby provide one mechanism underlying neurological abnormalities. Glutamate is the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the mammalian central nervous system and mediates neurotransmission across most excitatory synapses. In this article we review the timely expression of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate and its receptors during brain development, briefly review glutamate receptor antagonists and present clinical and experimental evidence describing their adverse effects in the developing brain.