While many pharmacological agents have been shown to protect the brain from cerebral ischemia in animal models, none have translated successfully to human patients. One potential clinical neuroprotective strategy in humans may involve increasing the brain's tolerance to ischemia by preischemic conditioning (preconditioning). There are many methods to induce tolerance via preconditioning such as ischemia itself, pharmacological, hypoxia, endotoxin, and others. Inhalational anesthetic agents have also been shown to result in brain preconditioning. Mechanisms responsible for brain preconditioning are many, complex, and unclear and may involve Akt activation, ATP-sensitive potassium channels, and nitric oxide, amongst many others. Anesthetics, however, may play an important and unique role as preconditioning agents, particularly during the perioperative period.