Evidence from postmortem analysis implicates the involvement of microglia in the neurodegenerative process of several degenerative neurological diseases, including Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. It remains to be determined, however, whether microglial activation plays a role in the initiation stage of disease progression or occurs merely as a response to neuronal death. Activated microglia secrete a variety of proinflammatory and neurotoxic factors that are believed to induce and/or exacerbate neurodegeneration. In this article, we summarize recent advances on the study of the role of microglia based on findings from animal and cell culture models in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases, with particular emphasis on Parkinson's disease. In addition, we also discuss novel approaches to potential therapeutic strategies.