Inflammatory signals generated within the brain and peripheral nervous system direct diverse biological processes. Key amongst the inflammatory molecules is tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), a potent pro-inflammatory cytokine that, via binding to its associated receptors, is considered to be a master regulator of cellular cascades that control a number of diverse processes coupled to cell viability, gene expression, synaptic integrity and ion homeostasis. Whereas a self-limiting neuroinflammatory response generally results in the resolution of an intrinsically or extrinsically triggered insult by the elimination of toxic material or injured tissue to restore brain homeostasis and function, in the event of an unregulated reaction, where the immune response persists, inappropriate chronic neuroinflammation can ensue. Uncontrolled neuroinflammatory activity can induce cellular dysfunction and demise, and lead to a self-propagating cascade of harmful pathogenic events. Such chronic neuroinflammation is a typical feature across a range of debilitating common neurodegenerative diseases, epitomized by Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in which TNF-α expression appears to be upregulated and may represent a valuable target for intervention. Elaboration of the protective homeostasis signaling cascades from the harmful pathogenic ones that likely drive disease onset and progression could aid in the clinical translation of approaches to lower brain and peripheral nervous system TNF-α levels, and amelioration of inappropriate neuroinflammation.