Recent findings indicate that neurons are not merely passive targets of microglia but rather control microglial activity. The variety of different signals that neurons use to control microglia can be divided into two categories: 'Off' signals constitutively keep microglia in their resting state and antagonize proinflammatory activity. 'On' signals are inducible and include purines, chemokines, glutamate. They instruct microglia activation under pathological conditions towards a beneficial or detrimental phenotype. Various neuronal signaling molecules thus actively control microglia function, thereby contribute to the inflammatory milieu of the central nervous system. Thus, neurons should be envisaged as key immune modulators in the brain.