The term ‘brain relaxation’ is routinely used to describe the size and firmness of the brain tissue during craniotomy. The status of brain relaxation is an important aspect of neuroanaesthesia practice and is relevant to the operating conditions, retraction injury, and likely patient outcomes. Brain relaxation is determined by the relationship between the volume of the intracranial contents and the capacity of the intracranial space (i.e. a content–space relationship). It is a concept related to, but distinct from, intracranial pressure. The evaluation of brain relaxation should be standardized to facilitate clinical communication and research collaboration. Both advantageous and disadvantageous effects of the various interventions for brain relaxation should be taken into account in patient care. The outcomes that matter the most to patients should be emphasized in defining, evaluating, and managing brain relaxation. To date, brain relaxation has not been reviewed specifically, and the aim of this manuscript is to discuss the current approaches to the definition, evaluation, and management of brain relaxation, knowledge gaps, and targets for future research.