Background Rasagiline, a new drug developed to treat Parkinson's disease, is known to inhibit monoamine oxidase B. However, its metabolite R-(-)-aminoindan does not show this kind of activity. The present series of in vitro experiments using the rat hippocampal slice preparation deals with effects of both compounds on the pyramidal cell response after electric stimulation of the Schaffer Collaterals in comparison to selegiline, another MAO B inhibitor. Method Stimulation of the Schaffer Collaterals by single stimuli (SS) or theta burst stimulation (TBS) resulted in stable responses of pyramidal cells measured as population spike amplitude (about 1 mV under control SS conditions or about 2 mV after TBS). Results During the first series, this response was attenuated in the presence of rasagiline and aminoindan-to a lesser degree of selegiline-in a concentration dependent manner (5-50 μM) after single stimuli as well as under TBS. During oxygen/glucose deprivation for 10 min the amplitude of the population spike breaks down by 75%. The presence of rasagiline and aminoindan, but rarely the presence of selegiline, prevented this break down. Following glutamate receptor mediated enhancements of neuronal transmission in a second series of experiments very clear differences could be observed in comparison to the action of selegiline: NMDA receptor, AMPA receptor as well as metabotropic glutamate receptor mediated increases of transmission were concentration dependently (0,3 - 2 μM) antagonized by rasagiline and aminoindan, but not by selegiline. On the opposite, only selegiline attenuated kainate receptor mediated increases of excitability. Thus, both monoamino oxidase (MAO) B inhibitors show attenuation of glutamatergic transmission in the hippocampus but interfere with different receptor mediated excitatory modulations at low concentrations. Conclusions Since aminoindan does not induce MAO B inhibition, these effects must be regarded as being independent from MAO B inhibition. The results provide strong evidence for a neuroprotective activity of rasagiline and aminoindan in concert with an extended clinical indication into the direction of other diseases like Alzheimer's disease or stroke.