It is now evident that the adult vertebrate brain including the human brain is efficiently and continuously generating new neurons. In the first part we describe the current view of how neurons are generated in the adult brain and the possible compensatory reactions to pathological situations in which neuronal damage might stimulate neural stem cell activity. In the second part, we discuss the current knowledge on the signals and cells involved in the process of neurogenesis. This knowledge is important because any neuronal replacement strategy depends on our ability to induce or modulate each step on the way to a new neuron: stem cell proliferation, cell fate determination, progenitor migration, and differentiation into specific neuronal phenotypes. Identification of the molecular signals that control these events are essential for the application of neural stem cell biology to develop repair strategies for neurodegenerative disorders.