Abstract: The evidence is compelling that free radicals, plus increases in free cytosolic Ca2+ and Na+, figure prominently in neuronal death after exposure to glutamate and dicarboxylic excitotoxins such as NMDA and kainate. However, neither the source of these radicals nor the direct connection between Ca2+ mobilization and radical production has been well defined. Electron paramagnetic resonance studies reported here indicate that intact mitochondria isolated from adult rat cerebral cortex and cerebellum generate extremely reactive hydroxyl (•OH) radicals, plus ascorbyl and other carbon-centered radicals when exposed to 2.5 µM Ca2+, 14 mM Na+, plus elevated ADP under normoxic conditions, circumstances that prevail in the cytoplasm of neurons during excitotoxin-induced neurodegeneration. In a feed-forward cycle, exposure of isolated mitochondria to •OH significantly increases subsequent radical production five- to 16-fold (average = 8.8 ± 1.6 SE, n = 6, p > 0.01) with succinate as substrate, and also selectively impairs function of NADH-CoQ dehydrogenase activity (electron transport complex 1). These effects are also reflected by respiration rates that are reduced 48% with complex 1 substrates, but increased 27% with complex 2 substrate, after •OH exposure. Comparable complex 1 dysfunction is observed in mitochondria isolated from the substantia nigra of Parkinson's disease patients, from platelets of Huntington's disease patients, and from neocortex of Alzheimer's disease patients. Mitochondrial radical production provides a testable model, based on oxyradical toxicity, oxidative enzyme inactivation, and mitochondrial dysfunction, for the final common pathway of neuronal necrosis during excitotoxicity, and in a host of neurodegenerative disorders.