A better understanding of the mechanisms underlying neuronal death in cerebral ischemia is required for the development of stroke therapies. Here we analyze the contribution of the tropomyosin-related kinase B (TrkB) neurotrophin receptor to excitotoxicity, a primary pathological mechanism in ischemia, which is induced by overstimulation of glutamate receptors of the N-methyl-D-aspartate type. We demonstrate a significant modification of TrkB expression that is strongly associated with neurodegeneration in models of ischemia and in vitro excitotoxicity. Two mechanisms cooperate for TrkB dysregulation: (1) calpain-processing of full-length TrkB (TrkB-FL), high-affinity receptor for brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which produces a truncated protein lacking the tyrosine-kinase domain and strikingly similar to the inactive TrkB-T1 isoform and (2) reverse regulation of the mRNA of these isoforms. Collectively, excitotoxicity results in a decrease of TrkB-FL, the production of truncated TrkB-FL and the upregulation of TrkB-T1. A similar neuro-specific increase of the TrkB-T1 isoform is also observed in stroke patients. A lentivirus designed for both neuro-specific TrkB-T1 interference and increased TrkB-FL expression allows recovery of the TrkB-FL/TrkB-T1 balance and protects neurons from excitotoxic death. These data implicate a combination of TrkB-FL downregulation and TrkB-T1 upregulation as significant causes of neuronal death in excitotoxicity, and reveal novel targets for the design of stroke therapies.