Genetic strategies provide new ways to define the molecular cascades that regulate the responses of the mammalian nervous system to injury. Genetic interventions also provide opportunities to manipulate and control key molecular steps in these cascades, so as to modify the outcome of CNS injury. Most current genetic strategies involve the use of mice, an animal that has not heretofore been used extensively for neurotrauma research. Therefore, one purpose of the present review is to consider how mice respond to neural trauma, focusing especially on recent information that reveals important differences between mice and rats, and between different inbred strains of mice. The second aim of this review is to provide a brief introduction to the opportunities, caveats, and potential pitfalls of studies that use genetically modified animals for neurotrauma research.