Over the past year, evidence has accrued that adult CNS stem cells are a widespread progenitor cell type. These cells may normally replace neurons and/or glia in the adult brain and spinal cord. Advances have been made in understanding the signals that regulate stem cell proliferation and differentiation. A deeper understanding of the structure of germinal zones has helped us move towards identifying stem cells in vivo. Recent studies suggest that the fate of stem cell progeny in vivo may be linked to the complexity of the animal's environment.