The new generation of inhalational anesthetics has been widely used for general anesthesia in both clinical and experimental settings because of their safety, reliability and potency. A neuroprotective role has recently been revealed for some of these anesthetics, including the volatile gases isoflurane, sevoflurane, and desflurane, as well as the inert gas xenon. In vivo and in vitro studies have demonstrated that these gases were able to protect brain against ischemic injury, indicated by the decreases in infarct volumes and neuronal apoptosis. In this review, we [Please see table 1] will briefly introduce the properties of these gases, and discuss in detail their effects on brain ischemia, effective treatment regimens, and neuroprotective mechanisms. Perspectives are also discussed on future study and use of inhalational anesthetics.