Abstract Fast synaptic transmission in the vertebrate brain is mediated by ligand-gated channel receptors. As some of these receptors have been implicated in learning and memory, it is important to understand their mechanism of action at a molecular level. Excitatory receptors are members of large gene families of related channels that are gated by acetylcholine, serotonin, and the most abundant neurotransmitter, glutamate. Within the last year, a number of important studies have focused on the ability of these channels to flux calcium ions. Calcium entry into neurons through some of these channels triggers biochemical cascades, which can lead to changes in synaptic efficacy, presumed to be a requisite for memory formation, or if it occurs in excess, to cell death. Recent studies that attempt to determine the channel structures responsible for this calcium conductance will be discussed.