We aim to investigate the critical window of susceptibility to toluene exposure during brain development and the effects of fetal and neonatal toluene exposure on the expression of N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor subunits and related transduction pathway in infant mice hippocampus. Pregnant mice (GD 14), male offspring (postnatal day; PND 2) or PND 8 were exposed to either a filtered air control (0ppm), or 5, or 50ppm of toluene for 6h per day for 5 consecutive days. On PND 21, the expression levels of NMDA receptor subunits, cyclic AMP responsive element binding protein (CREB)-1, calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase (CaMK)-IV, and apoptotic related genes (Bax, Bcl) mRNAs in the hippocampus were estimated using quantitative real-time RT-PCR and immunohistochemical analyses. NR2B, CaMKIV and CREB1 mRNAs increased significantly in the hippocampus of mice exposed to 50ppm toluene on PND 2-6. In contrast, almost all memory function-related gene mRNAs and proapoptotic and anti-apoptotic ratio increased significantly in mice exposed to 5 or 50ppm toluene on PND 8-12. However, mice exposed to toluene on GD 14-18 showed no significant change. Increased active caspase-3 immunoreactive cells were found in hippocampal CA1 area of PND 21 male mice exposed to 5ppm toluene during PND 8-12. Our results suggest that late postnatal period may be a vulnerable and critical period to toluene exposure. Then, we have also examined the effect of toluene exposure in brain development on learning ability in young adult mice and found that poor spatial learning performance in PND 49 male mice exposed to 5ppm toluene during critical period. This is the first study to show that the early toluene exposure induces persistent of the alteration of memory function-related genes in infant mice and memory deficit in later life via modulating the synaptic morphology and function.