We have developed procedures that combine differential centrifugation and discontinuous Percoll density gradient centrifugation to isolate mitochondria from rat forebrains and brain subregions. The use of Percoll density gradient centrifugation is central to obtaining preparations that contain little contamination with synaptosomes and myelin. Protocols are presented for three variations of this procedure that differ in their suitability for dealing with large or small samples, in the proportion of total mitochondria isolated and in the total preparation time. One variation uses digitonin to disrupt synaptosomes before mitochondrial isolation. This method is well suited for preparing mitochondria from small tissue samples, but the isolated organelles are not appropriate for all studies. Each of the procedures produces mitochondria that are well coupled and exhibit high rates of respiratory activity. The procedures require an initial setup time of 45-75 min and between 1 and 3 h for the mitochondrial isolation.