The decline in testosterone levels in men during normal aging increases risks of dysfunction and disease in androgen-responsive tissues, including brain. The use of testosterone therapy has the potential to increase the risks for developing prostate cancer and or accelerating its progression. To overcome this limitation, novel compounds termed "selective androgen receptor modulators" (SARMs) have been developed that lack significant androgen action in prostate but exert agonist effects in select androgen-responsive tissues. The efficacy of SARMs in brain is largely unknown. In this study, we investigate the SARM RAD140 in cultured rat neurons and male rat brain for its ability to provide neuroprotection, an important neural action of endogenous androgens that is relevant to neural health and resilience to neurodegenerative diseases. In cultured hippocampal neurons, RAD140 was as effective as testosterone in reducing cell death induced by apoptotic insults. Mechanistically, RAD140 neuroprotection was dependent upon MAPK signaling, as evidenced by elevation of ERK phosphorylation and inhibition of protection by the MAPK kinase inhibitor U0126. Importantly, RAD140 was also neuroprotective in vivo using the rat kainate lesion model. In experiments with gonadectomized, adult male rats, RAD140 was shown to exhibit peripheral tissue-specific androgen action that largely spared prostate, neural efficacy as demonstrated by activation of androgenic gene regulation effects, and neuroprotection of hippocampal neurons against cell death caused by systemic administration of the excitotoxin kainate. These novel findings demonstrate initial preclinical efficacy of a SARM in neuroprotective actions relevant to Alzheimer's disease and related neurodegenerative diseases.