Oxidative stress is a major aspect of Alzheimer disease (AD) pathology. We have investigated the relationship between oxidative stress and neuronal binding of Abeta oligomers (also known as ADDLs). ADDLs are known to accumulate in brain tissue of AD patients and are considered centrally related to pathogenesis. Using hippocampal neuronal cultures, we found that ADDLs stimulated excessive formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) through a mechanism requiring N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDA-R) activation. ADDL binding to neurons was reduced and ROS formation was completely blocked by an antibody to the extracellular domain of the NR1 subunit of NMDA-Rs. In harmony with a steric inhibition of ADDL binding by NR1 antibodies, ADDLs that were bound to detergent-extracted synaptosomal membranes co-immunoprecipitated with NMDA-R subunits. The NR1 antibody did not affect ROS formation induced by NMDA, showing that NMDA-Rs themselves remained functional. Memantine, an open channel NMDA-R antagonist prescribed as a memory-preserving drug for AD patients, completely protected against ADDL-induced ROS formation, as did other NMDA-R antagonists. Memantine and the anti-NR1 antibody also attenuated a rapid ADDL-induced increase in intraneuronal calcium, which was essential for stimulated ROS formation. These results show that ADDLs bind to or in close proximity to NMDA-Rs, triggering neuronal damage through NMDA-R-dependent calcium flux. This response provides a pathologically specific mechanism for the therapeutic action of memantine, indicates a role for ROS dysregulation in ADDL-induced cognitive impairment, and supports the unifying hypothesis that ADDLs play a central role in AD pathogenesis.