Neurones undergo diverse forms of cell death depending on the nature and severity of the stress. These death outcomes are now classified into various types of programmed cell death, including apoptosis, autophagy and necrosis. Each of these pathways can run in parallel and all have mitochondria as a central feature. Recruitment of mitochondria into cell death signalling involves either (or both) induction of specific death responses through release of apoptogenic proteins into the cytosol, or perturbation in function leading to loss of mitochondrial energization and ATP synthesis. Cross-talk between these signalling pathways, particularly downstream of mitochondria, determines the resultant pattern of cell death. The differential recruitment of specific death pathways depends on the timing of engagement of mitochondrial signalling. Other influences on programmed cell death pathways occur through stress of the endoplasmic reticulum and the associated ubiquitin-proteasome system normally handling potentially neurotoxic protein aggregates. Based upon contemporary evidence apoptosis is a relatively rare in the mature brain whereas the contribution of programmed necrosis to various neuropathologies has been underestimated. The death outcomes that neurones exhibit during acute or chronic injury or pathological conditions considered here (oxidative stress, hypoxic-ischaemic injury, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases) fall within a spectrum of the diverse death types across the apoptosis-necrosis continuum. Indeed, dying or dead neurones may simultaneously manifest characteristics of more than one type of death pathway. Understanding neuronal death pathways and their cross-talk not only informs the detailed pathobiology but also suggests novel therapeutic strategies.