The role of inflammation in Alzheimer's disease (AD) has been controversial since its first consideration. As with most instances of neuroinflammation, the possibility must be considered that activation of glia and cytokine networks in AD arises merely as a reaction to neurodegeneration. Active, healthy neurons produce signals that suppress inflammatory events, and dying neurons activate phagocytic responses in microglia at the very least. But simultaneous with the arrival of a more complex view of microglia, evidence that inflammation plays a causal or exacerbating role in AD etiology has been boosted by genetic, physiological, and epidemiological studies. In the end, it may be that the semantics of "inflammation" and glial "activation" must be regarded as too simplistic for the advancement of our understanding in this regard. It is clear that elaboration of the entire repertoire of activated microglia - a phenomenon that may be termed "malactivation" - must be prevented for healthy brain structure and function. Nevertheless, recent studies have suggested that phagocytosis of Abeta by microglia plays an important role in clearance of amyloid plaques, a process boosted by immunization paradigms. To the extent that this clearance might produce clinical improvements (still an open question), this relationship thus obligates a more nuanced consideration of the factors that indicate and control the various activities of microglia and other components of neuroinflammation.