Hypoxia threatens brain function during the entire life-span starting from early fetal age up to senescence. This review compares the short-term, long-term and life-spanning effects of fetal chronic hypoxia and neonatal anoxia on several behavioural paradigms including novelty-induced spontaneous and learning behaviours. Furthermore, it reveals that perinatal hypoxia is an additional threat to neurodegeneration and decline of cognitive and other behaviours during the aging process. Prenatal hypoxia evokes a temporary delay of ingrowth of cholinergic and serotonergic fibres into the hippocampus and neocortex, and causes an enhanced neurodegeneration of 5-HT-ir axons during aging. Neonatal anoxia suppresses hippocampal ChAT activity and up-regulates muscarinic receptor sites for 3H-QNB and 3H-pirenzepine binding in the hippocampus in the early postnatal age. The altered development of axonal arborization and pre- and postsynaptic cholinergic functions may be an important underlying mechanism to explain the behavioural deficits. As far as the cellular mechanisms of perinatal hypoxia is concerned, our primary aim was to study the putative importance of Ca2+ homeostasis of developing neurons by means of pharmacological interventions and by measuring the development of immunoexpression of Ca(2+)-binding proteins. We assessed that nimodipine, an L-type calcium channel blocker, prevented or attenuated the adverse behavioural and neurochemical effects of perinatal hypoxias, while it enhanced the early postnatal development of ir-Ca(2+)-binding proteins. The results are discussed in the context of different related research areas on brain development and hypoxia and ischaemia.