High concentrations of ethylmalonic acid are found in tissues and biological fluids of patients affected by ethylmalonic encephalopathy, deficiency of short-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase activity and other illnesses characterized by developmental delay and neuromuscular symptoms. The pathophysiological mechanisms responsible for the brain damage in these patients are virtually unknown. Therefore, in the present work we investigated the in vitro effect of EMA on oxidative stress parameters in rat cerebral cortex. EMA significantly increased chemiluminescence and thiobarbituric acid-reactive species levels (lipoperoxidation), as well as carbonyl content and oxidation of sulfhydryl groups (protein oxidative damage) and DCFH. EMA also significantly decreased the levels of reduced glutathione (non-enzymatic antioxidant defenses). In contrast, nitrate and nitrite levels were not affected by this short organic acid. It is therefore presumed that oxidative stress may represent a pathomechanism involved in the pathophysiology of the neurologic symptoms manifested by patients affected by disorders in which EMA accumulates.