Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) is a model of the neuroimmune system responding to priming with central nervous system (CNS)-restricted antigens. It is an excellent model of post-vaccinal encephalitis and a useful model of many aspects of multiple sclerosis. EAE has been established in numerous species and is induced by priming with a large number of CNS-derived antigens. As a consequence, the pathogenesis, pathology and clinical signs vary significantly between experimental protocols. As I describe in this Timeline article, the reductionist approach taken in some lines of investigation of EAE resulted in a reliance on results obtained under a narrow range of conditions. Although such studies made important contributions to our molecular understanding of inflammation, T-cell activation, and MHC restriction, they did not advance as effectively our knowledge of the polyantigenic responses that usually occur in CNS immunopathology and autoimmunity.