Excessive activation of ionotropic glutamate receptors increases oxidative stress, contributing to the neuronal death observed following neurological insults such as ischemia and seizures. Post-translational histone modifications may be key mediators in the detection and repair of damage resulting from oxidative stress, including DNA damage, and may thus affect neuronal survival in the aftermath of insults characterized by excessive glutamate release. In non-neuronal cells, phosphorylation of histone variant H2A.X (termed γ-H2AX) occurs rapidly following DNA double-strand breaks. We investigated γ-H2AX formation in rat cortical neurons (days in vitro 14) following activation of N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) or α-amino-3-hydroxyl-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA)/kainate glutamate receptors using fluorescent immunohistochemical techniques. Moreover, we evaluated the co-localization of γ-H2AX ‘foci’ with Mre11, a double-strand break repair protein, to provide further evidence for the activation of this DNA damage response pathway. Here we show that minimally cytotoxic stimulation of ionotropic glutamate receptors was sufficient to evoke γ-H2AX in neurons, and that NMDA-induced γ-H2AX foci formation was attenuated by pretreatment with the antioxidant, Vitamin E, and the intracellular calcium chelator, BAPTA-AM. Moreover, a subset of γ-H2AX foci co-localized with Mre11, indicating that at least a portion of γ-H2AX foci is damage dependent. The extent of γ-H2AX induction following glutamate receptor activation corresponded to the increases we observed following conventional DNA damaging agents [i.e. non-lethal doses of gamma-radiation (1 Gy) and hydrogen peroxide (10 µm)]. These data suggest that insults not necessarily resulting in neuronal death induce the DNA damage-evoked chromatin modification, γ-H2AX, and implicate a role for histone alterations in determining neuronal vulnerability following neurological insults.