Manganese (Mn) toxicity in humans has been observed as manganism, a disease that resembles Parkinson's disease. The mechanism of Mn toxicity and the chemical forms that may be responsible for its neurotoxicity are not well understood. We examined the toxicity of Mn oxide nanomaterials in a neuronal precursor cell model, using the MTS assay to evaluate mitochondrial function in living cells and the LDH assay to quantify the release of the enzyme lactate dehydrogenase as a result of damage to the cell membrane. Both assays show that the toxicity of Mn is dependent on the type of Mn oxide nanomaterial and its concentration as well as on the state of cell differentiation. Following exposure to Mn oxide nanomaterials, reactive oxygen species (ROS) are generated, and flow cytometry experiments suggest that cell death occurred through apoptosis. During exposure to Mn oxide nanomaterials, increased levels of the transcription factor NF-κB (which mediates the cellular inflammatory response) were observed. © 2008 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.