Caspase-3 has been identified as a key mediator of neuronal programmed cell death. This protease plays a central role in the developing nervous system and its activation is observed early in neural tube formation and persists during postnatal differentiation of the neural network. Caspase-3 activation, a crucial event of neuronal cell death program, is also a feature of many chronic neurodegenerative diseases. This traditional apoptotic function of caspase-3 is challenged by recent studies that reveal new cell death-independent roles for mitochondrial-activated caspase-3 in neurite pruning and synaptic plasticity. These findings underscore the need for further research into the mechanism of action and functions of caspase-3 that may prove useful in the development of novel pharmacological treatments for a diverse range of neurological disorders.