Glial cells are essential for proper formation and maintenance of the nervous system. During development, glia keep neuronal cell numbers in check and ensure that mature neural circuits are appropriately sculpted by engulfing superfluous cells and projections. In the adult brain, glial cells offer metabolic sustenance and provide critical immune support in the face of acute and chronic challenges. Dysfunctional glial immune activity is believed to contribute to age-related cognitive decline, as well as neurodegenerative disease risk, but we still know surprisingly little about the specific molecular pathways that govern glia-neuron communication in the healthy or diseased brain. Drosophila offers a versatile in vivo model to explore the conserved molecular underpinnings of glial cell biology and glial cell contributions to brain function, health, and disease susceptibility. This review addresses recent findings describing how Drosophila glial cells influence neuronal activity in the adult fly brain to support optimal brain function and, importantly, highlights new insights into specific glial defects that may contribute to neuronal demise.
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