The myelination of axons by glial cells was the last major step in the evolution of cells in the vertebrate nervous system, and white-matter tracts are key to the architecture of the mammalian brain. Cell biology and mouse genetics have provided insight into axon-glia signalling and the molecular architecture of the myelin sheath. Glial cells that myelinate axons were found to have a dual role by also supporting the long-term integrity of those axons. This function may be independent of myelin itself. Myelin abnormalities cause a number of neurological diseases, and may also contribute to complex neuropsychiatric disorders.