Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by upper and lower motoneuron death. Mutations in the gene for superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) cause a familial form of ALS and have been used to develop transgenic mice which overexpress human mutant SOD1 (mSOD) and these mice exhibit a motoneuron disease which is pathologically and phenotypically similar to ALS. Neuroinflammation is a pathological hallmark of many neurodegenerative diseases including ALS and is typified by the activation and proliferation of microglia and the infiltration of T cells into the brain and spinal cord. Although the neuroinflammatory response has been considered a consequence of neuronal dysfunction and death, evidence indicates that manipulation of this response can alter disease progression. Previously viewed as deleterious to neuronal survival, recent reports suggest a trophic role for activated microglia in the mSOD mouse during the early stages of disease that is dependent on instructive signals from infiltrating T cells. However, at advanced stages of disease, activated microglia acquire increased neurotoxic potential, warranting further investigation into factors capable of skewing microglial activation towards a neurotrophic phenotype as a means of therapeutic intervention in ALS.