Apoptosis is a type of controlled cell death that is essential for development and tissue homeostasis. It also serves as a robust host response against infection by many viruses. The capacity of neurotropic viruses to induce apoptosis strongly correlates with virulence. However, the precise function of apoptosis in viral infection is not well understood. Reovirus is a neurotropic virus that induces apoptosis in a variety of cell types, including central nervous system neurons, leading to fatal encephalitis in newborn mice. To determine the effect of apoptosis on reovirus replication in the host, we generated two otherwise isogenic viruses that differ in a single amino acid in viral capsid protein μ1 that segregates with apoptotic capacity. Apoptosis-proficient and apoptosis-deficient viruses were compared for replication, dissemination, tropism, and tissue injury in newborn mice and for the capacity to spread to uninfected littermates. Our results indicate that apoptotic capacity enhances reovirus replication in the brain and consequent neurovirulence but reduces transmission efficiency. The replication advantage of the apoptosis-proficient strain is limited to the brain and correlates with enhanced infectivity of neurons. These studies reveal a new cell type-specific determinant of reovirus virulence.