Tuberous sclerosis (TS) is a congenital neurocutaneous syndrome (or phacomatosis) characterized by widespread development of hamartomas in multiple organs. For affected individuals, neurological and psychiatric complications are the most disabling and lethal features. Although the clinical phenotype of TS is complex, only three lesions characterize the neuropathological features of the disease: cortical tubers, subependymal nodules, and subependymal giant cell astrocytomas. The latter is a benign brain tumor of mixed neuronal and glial origin. Tuberous sclerosis is caused by loss-of-function mutations in one of two genes, TSC1 or TSC2. The normal cellular proteins encoded by these genes, hamartin and tuberin, respectively, form a heterodimer that suppresses cell growth in the central nervous system by dampening the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase signal transduction pathway. The authors review the clinical and neuropathological features of TS as well as recent research into the molecular biology of this disease. Through this work, investigators are beginning to resolve the paradoxical findings that malignant cancers seldom arise in patients with TS, even though the signaling molecules involved are key mediators of cancer cell growth.