Nimodipine and dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) were tested (alone and in combination) regarding their ability to increase hypoxic tolerance of brain slices under 'hypoxic' (deprivation of oxygen) or 'ischemic' (hypoxia+withdrawal of glucose) conditions. Direct current (DC) and evoked potentials were recorded in the CA1 region of hippocampal slices of adult guinea pigs. After induction of hypoxia or ischemia, the latency of anoxic terminal negativity (ATN) of the DC potential was determined during superfusion with artificial cerebrospinal fluid alone (aCSF), and during superfusion with aCSF containing DMSO [0.1% (14.1 mmol/l) and 0.4% (56.3 mmol/l)] with the addition of nimodipine (40 micromol/l). Latencies of ATN with first hypoxia were 6.7+/-3.7 min in the control group, 9. 3+/-4.2 min in the 0.4% DMSO group and 12.3+/-5.5 min (P=0.007) in the nimodipine/0.4% DMSO group. Latencies of ATN with first ischemia were 2.9+/-2 min in the control group, 4.1+/-1.6 min in the 0.1% DMSO group, 7.1+/-3.9 min in the 0.4% DMSO group (P=0.006), 5.3+/-1. 5 min in the nimodipine/0.1% DMSO group and 7.6+/-3 min (P<0.001) in the nimodipine/0.4% DMSO group. DMSO (0.4%), either alone or in combination with nimodipine, increase the latency of the ATN after acute onset of hypoxia and ischemia.