Hereditary diffuse leukoencephalopathy with spheroids (HDLS) is an autosomal-dominant central nervous system white-matter disease with variable clinical presentations, including personality and behavioral changes, dementia, depression, parkinsonism, seizures and other phenotypes. We combined genome-wide linkage analysis with exome sequencing and identified 14 different mutations affecting the tyrosine kinase domain of the colony stimulating factor 1 receptor (encoded by CSF1R) in 14 families with HDLS. In one kindred, we confirmed the de novo occurrence of the mutation. Follow-up sequencing identified an additional CSF1R mutation in an individual diagnosed with corticobasal syndrome. In vitro, CSF-1 stimulation resulted in rapid autophosphorylation of selected tyrosine residues in the kinase domain of wild-type but not mutant CSF1R, suggesting that HDLS may result from partial loss of CSF1R function. As CSF1R is a crucial mediator of microglial proliferation and differentiation in the brain, our findings suggest an important role for microglial dysfunction in HDLS pathogenesis.