Cytokines, (particularly interleukins and growth factors) are synthesised in the brain, and induced by brain damage. Interleukin-I appears to directly mediate ischaemic and excitotoxic brain damage, whereas growth factors (e.g., bFGF, NGF), and the phospholipid binding protein lipocortin-1 exhibit neuroprotective actions. Central administration of recombinant interleukin-1 receptor antagonist markedly attenuates damage induced by focal cerebral ischaemia, or pharmacological activation of NMDA receptors in the rat brain. The mechanisms of action of these cytokines on neurodegeneration are unknown, but indirect evidence has implicated corticotropin releasing factor, arachidonic acid, and nitric oxide. In vitro effects of interleukin-1, growth factors, and lipocortin-1 have been reported on intracellular calcium homeostasis, which is critically important in neurodegeneration. Pharmacological modulation of the expression and/or actions of cytokines in the brain may be of considerable therapeutic benefit in the treatment of acute neurodegeneration.