Large-conductance calcium-activated (maxi-K, BK) potassium channels are widely distributed in the brain. Maxi-K channels function as neuronal calcium sensors and contribute to the control of cellular excitability and the regulation of neurotransmitter release. Little is currently known of any significant role of maxi-K channels in the genesis of neurological disease. Recent advances in the molecular biology and pharmacology of these channels have revealed sources of phenotypic variability and demonstrated that they can be successfully modulated by pharmacological agents. A potential role is suggested in the treatment of conditions such as ischemic stroke and cognitive disorders.