Over the last few decades, understanding of the mechanisms involved in the process of neuronal cell death has grown. Recent findings have established that DNA damage, and specifically ataxia telangiectasia mutated protein (ATM), is key to the cascade of regulation of neuronal apoptosis. Another characteristic common to all neurodegenerative diseases is oxidative stress. Likewise, a common feature in the brain of patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimers and Parkinsons diseases and other neurological disorders is the expression of proteins involved in cell-cycle control. In the process of re-entry in the cell cycle, an additional component, transcription factor E2F-1, also involved in the regulation of apoptosis, is expressed. Finally, in this complex puzzle, mitochondrial activation with the release of proteins and the activation of cystein proteases, specifically caspase-3, is prominent in the last step of neuronal apoptosis. This review focuses on the role of ATM activation and its re-entry into the cell cycle in neurons as a potential target for the prevention of neuronal apoptosis. We suggest the mechanisms by which ATM and E2F-1 orchestrate the apoptotic process. Among them, p53 could be a common point on this apoptotic route. Finally, we put forward drugs that are now being studied experimentally, such as p53 inhibitors, ATM inhibitors and cyclin-dependent kinase (CDKs) inhibitors, for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.