The function and the role phytoceramide (PCER) and phytosphingosine (PSO) in the central nervous system has not been well studied. This study was aimed at investigating the possible roles of PCER and PSO in glutamate-induced neurotoxicity in cultured neuronal cells and memory function in mice. Phytoceramide showed neuroprotective activity in the glutamate-induced toxicity in cultured cortical neuronal cells. Neither phytosphingosine nor tetraacetylphytosphingosine (TAPS) showed neuroproective effects in neuronal cells. PCER (50 mg/kg, p.o.) recovered the scopolamine-induced reduction in step-through latency in the passive avoidance test; however, PSO did not modulate memory function on this task. The ameliorating effects of PCER on spatial memory were confirmed by the Morris water maze test. In conclusion, through behavioral and neurochemical experimental results, it was demonstrated that central administration of PCER produces amelioration of memory impairment. These results suggest that PCER plays an important role in neuroprotection and memory enhancement and PCER could be a potential new therapeutic agent for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease.