The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a highly specialized brain endothelial structure of the fully differentiated neurovascular system. In concert with pericytes, astrocytes, and microglia, the BBB separates components of the circulating blood from neurons. Moreover, the BBB maintains the chemical composition of the neuronal "milieu," which is required for proper functioning of neuronal circuits, synaptic transmission, synaptic remodeling, angiogenesis, and neurogenesis in the adult brain. BBB breakdown, due to disruption of the tight junctions, altered transport of molecules between blood and brain and brain and blood, aberrant angiogenesis, vessel regression, brain hypoperfusion, and inflammatory responses, may initiate and/or contribute to a "vicious circle" of the disease process, resulting in progressive synaptic and neuronal dysfunction and loss in disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, and others. These findings support developments of new therapeutic approaches for chronic neurodegenerative disorders directed at the BBB and other nonneuronal cells of the neurovascular unit.