Classic maple syrup disease can be managed to allow a benign neonatal course, normal growth, and low hospitalization rates. The majority of affected infants that are prospectively managed have good neurodevelopmental outcome; however, acute metabolic intoxication and neurologic deterioration can develop rapidly at any age. Each episode is associated with a risk for cerebral edema, cerebrovascular compromise, and brain herniation. High plasma leucine and, possibly, alpha-ketoisocaproate are the principal neurotoxins in maple syrup disease. Plasma levels rise rapidly in association with net protein catabolism provoked by common infections and injuries. Transient periods of maple syrup disease encephalopathy appear fully reversible, leaving no clinically detectable neurologic sequelae. In contrast, prolonged amino acid imbalance, particularly if occurring during the critical period of brain development, leads to neuronal hypoplasia, a paucity of synapses, and undermyelination. Stagnated maturation and inadequate nutritional maintenance of brain structure have lifelong neurologic and behavioral consequences. Core elements of effective long-term therapy include screening and identification of asymptomatic newborns, frequent plasma amino acid monitoring, careful attention to branched-chain amino acid nurtriture, prevention of cerebral essential amino acid deficiencies, adequate provision of essential omega-3 class fatty acids and micronutrients deficient in commercial formulas, methods for home monitoring of metabolic control, and a commitment to lifelong therapy. Recognizing the risk for acute leucine intoxication depends on anticipating effects of common childhood infection and physiologic stresses on whole body protein turnover. Successful management of metabolic decompensation is based on the use of home sick-day regimens, rapid availability of branched-chain amino acid-free hyperalimentation solutions for hospitalized children, prevention of hyponatremia in patients with leucinosis, and frequent adjustments of intravenous therapies guided by plasma amino acid levels and indices of metabolic and clinical response.