The stereoselectivity and potency of 3N-substituted 2,3-benzodiazepines were examined in vivo against excitation of spinal neurones induced by electrophoretic ejection of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA), alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionate (AMPA) and kainate in anaesthetised rats. AMPA receptor antagonist activity resided in the (-) isomers, LY300164 and LY303070, which were effective given electrophoretically, intravenously (2.5-5 mg/kg) or orally (10 mg/kg). The same stereoselectivity was observed in neuroprotection studies. Thus, systemic administration of the (-) isomer, but not the (+) isomer, of these 2,3-benzodiazepines before or immediately after bilateral carotid artery occlusion in the gerbil was neuroprotective. For example, 10 mg/kg of LY300164 intraperitoneally or orally provided survival of up to 25% of hippocampal CA1 neurones.