In the past 20 years, an extra layer of information processing, in addition to that provided by neurons, has been proposed for the CNS. Neuronally evoked increases of the intracellular calcium concentration in astrocytes have been suggested to trigger exocytotic release of the 'gliotransmitters' glutamate, ATP and D-serine. These are proposed to modulate neuronal excitability and transmitter release, and to have a role in diseases as diverse as stroke, epilepsy, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease and HIV infection. However, there is intense controversy about whether astrocytes can exocytose transmitters in vivo. Resolving this issue would considerably advance our understanding of brain function.