Retinoic acid (RA) is involved in the induction of neural differentiation, motor axon outgrowth and neural patterning. Like other developmental molecules, RA continues to play a role after development has been completed. Elevated RA signalling in the adult triggers axon outgrowth and, consequently, nerve regeneration. RA is also involved in the maintenance of the differentiated state of adult neurons, and disruption of RA signalling in the adult leads to the degeneration of motor neurons (motor neuron disease), the development of Alzheimer's disease and, possibly, the development of Parkinson's disease. The data described here strongly suggest that RA could be used as a therapeutic molecule for the induction of axon regeneration and the treatment of neurodegeneration.