With the availability of suitable fibres, the Er:YAG laser has become an indispensable tool for invasive neurosurgical applications as a source of precise ablation. The aim of this study was to investigate the ablative effects of the Er:YAG laser on brain tissue. The response of neuronal. tissue to 2.94 mum Er:YAG laser irradiation was investigated on excised rat brain specimens. Ablation craters were created in cerebral and cerebellar tissues using 0.3, 0.5 and 1.0 J single pulses of 150 mus duration. The corresponding average irradiances were 37.7 J/cm(2), 62.9 J/cm(2) and 125.8 J/cm(2), respectively. Craters were checked qualitatively, crater dimensions were measured and compared, and volume of ablated tissue was estimated. Laser-induced crater dimensions were found to be significantly different at different energy levels applied. Moreover, dimensions of craters on cerebral and cerebellar tissues were significantly different in terms of dimensions. We observed that with the Er:YAG laser ablation craters were created with practically no thermal damage to adjacent tissues. The differences observed in the response of cerebral and cerebellar cortical tissues were dependent on the anatomical and chemical differences.