Inflammation is a local, protective response to microbial invasion or injury. It must be fine-tuned and regulated precisely, because deficiencies or excesses of the inflammatory response cause morbidity and shorten lifespan. The discovery that cholinergic neurons inhibit acute inflammation has qualitatively expanded our understanding of how the nervous system modulates immune responses. The nervous system reflexively regulates the inflammatory response in real time, just as it controls heart rate and other vital functions. The opportunity now exists to apply this insight to the treatment of inflammation through selective and reversible 'hard-wired' neural systems.