Long-term depression (LTD) of the parallel-fiber (PF) Purkinje synapse induced by four different experimental paradigms could be prevented in rat cerebellar slices by T-588, a neuroprotective compound. The paradigms consisted of pairing PF activation with climbing-fiber activation, direct depolarization, glutamic iontophoretic depolarization, or caffeine. In all cases, LTD was determined by patch-clamp recording of PF excitatory postsynaptic currents at the Purkinje cell somata. T-588 at 1 muM prevented the triggering of LTD reversibly and did not generate LTD on its own. Two-photon calcium-sensitive dye imaging demonstrated that T-588 reduces intracellular calcium concentration ([Ca(2+)](i)) increase by blocking calcium release from intracellular stores. Because [Ca(2+)](i) increase has been widely shown to trigger LTD and glutamate excitotoxicity, we propose that LTD may act as a neuroprotective mechanism. As such, LTD would serve to decrease glutamatergic-receptor sensitivity to limit deleterious [Ca(2+)](i) increase rather than to act as a mechanism for cerebellar learning.