Vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), originally discovered in the intestine as a peptide of 28 amino acids, was later found to be a major brain peptide having neuroprotective activities. To exert neuroprotective activity, VIP requires glial cells secreting neuroprotective proteins. Activity-dependent neurotrophic factor (ADNF) is a recently isolated factor secreted by glial cells under the action of VIP. This protein, isolated by sequential chromatographic methods, was named activity-dependent neurotrophic factor since it protected neurons from death associated with blockade of electrical activity. A fourteen-amino-acid fragment of ADNF (ADNF-14) and the more potent, nine-amino-acid derivative (ADNF-9), exhibit activity that surpasses that of the parent protein with regard to potency and a broader range of effective concentration. Furthermore, the peptides exhibit protective activity in Alzheimer's disease-related systems (e.g., beta-amyloid toxicity and apolipoprotein E deficiencies, genes that have been associated with Alzheimer's disease onset and progression). ADNP is another glial mediator of VIP-associated neuroprotection. NAP, an eight-amino-acid peptide derived from ADNP (sharing structural and functional similarities with ADNF-9), was identified as the most potent neuroprotectant described to-date in an animal model of apolipoprotein E-deficiency (knock-out mice). These femtomolar-acting peptides form a basis for a new concept in pharmacology: femtomolar neuroprotection.