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Most excitatory synapses in the brain use the neurotransmitter glutamate to carry impulses between neurons. During fast transmission, glutamate usually activates a mixture of N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) and α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptors in the postsynaptic cell. Experimental scrutiny of NMDARs provides insight into their involvement in excitatory synaptic transmission and related processes such as as synaptic plasticity, neural development, and pain perception. There is increasing awareness that subtle variation in NMDAR properties is imparted by specific receptor subunits, and recent studies have started to provide perspective into some of the discrete tasks carried out by individual receptor subtypes.