Aniracetam, a drug known to elicit cognition enhancing properties in both animals and humans, was found to counteract the neurotoxicity induced by excitatory amino acids in primary cultures of cerebellar neurons. We report here that aniracetam prevents the neurotoxic effect induced by N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) in rat hippocampal slices. Time-course experiments showed that the aniracetam-induced neuroprotection does not require preincubation of the slices with the drug. Maximal effective concentration of aniracetam was 10 microM. Since the NMDA-mediated cell death in hippocampal slices is considered a valuable experimental model of ischemia, these results suggest a possible novel therapeutic application for aniracetam.