Accumulating evidence shows that T cells penetrate the central nervous system (CNS) parenchyma in several autoimmune, infectious, and degenerative neurological diseases. The structural and functional consequences for CNS neurons of their encounter with activated T cells have been investigated in several experimental systems, including ex vivo co-cultures, electrophysiology, and in vivo imaging. Here, we review the modalities of neuron/T cell interactions. We substantiate the contention that T cells are directly responsible for neuronal damage in a large number of neurological diseases and discuss mechanisms of neuronal damage mediated by distinct T cell subsets, the impact of which differs depending on the disease. Finally, we describe how a better understanding of the mechanisms at play offers new possibilities for therapeutic intervention.
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