Transient receptor potential cation channel, subfamily V, member 1 (TRPV1, also known as vanilloid receptor 1) is a receptor that detects capsaicin, a pungent component of chili peppers, and noxious heat. Although its function in the primary nociceptor as a pain receptor is well established, whether TRPV1 is expressed in the brain is still under debate. In this study, the responses of primary cortical neurons were investigated. Here, we report that 1) capsaicin induces caspase-3-dependent programmed cell death, which coincides with increased production of nitric oxide and peroxynitrite ; that 2) the prolonged capsaicin treatment induces a steady increase in the degree of capase-3 activation, which is prevented by the removal of capsaicin; 3) and that blocking calcium entry and calcium-mediated signaling prevents capsaicin-induced cell death. These results indicate that cortical neurons express TRPV1 whose prolonged activation causes cell death.