We investigated the role of the astrocytic and neuronal hemichannels (HCs) in the spread of cortical neuronal death in a rat cortical injury model. Over time (by 6 h), propidium iodide (PI)-positive cells with labeling either with anti-neuron specific enolase or anti-parvalbumin (indicating GABAnergic interneurons) antibody spread in the deep cortical layers adjacent to the injury and co-localized with activated μ-calpain. Connexin (Cx)-43, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), activated μ-calpain and α-fodrin breakdown product (FBP) increased post-injury, peaking at 1 h, in the injury and adjacent areas. GFAP-Cx43-positive reactivated astrocytes exhibited similar distribution to the dead neurons. Cx43 and Cx36 primarily comprise HCs in the astrocyte and neuron, respectively. Ethidium bromide (EtBr) uptake was enhanced post-injury, and confirmed in the Cx43- and Cx36-positive cells. A Cx43-HC inhibitor Gap26 prevented the opening of the Cx43-HC and Cx36-HC, μ-calpain activation, α-fodrin proteolysis and death in the deep cortical neurons. Collectively, opening of the astrocytic Cx43-HC and neuronal Cx36-HC would induce the regional spread of cortical neuronal death through μ-calpain activation in the rat brain injury model.