In many cell types rises in cytosolic calcium, either due to influx from the extracellular space, or by release from an intracellular store activates calcium dependent potassium currents on the plasmalemma. In neurons, these currents are largely activated following calcium influx via voltage gated calcium channels active during the action potentials. Three types of these currents are known: I-c. I-AHP and I-sAHP. These currents can be distinguished by clear differences in their pharmacology and kinetics. Activation of these potassium currents modulates action potential time course and the repetitive firing properties of neurons. Single channel studies have identified two types of calcium-activated potassium channel which can also be separated on biophysical and pharmacological grounds and have been named BK and SK channels. It is now clear that BK channels underlie Ic whereas SK channels underlie I-AHP. The identity of the channels underlying I-sAHP are not known. In this review, we discuss the properties of the different types of calcium-activated potassium channels and the relationship between these channels and the macroscopic currents present in neurons. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.