Background The glial-lymphatic or glymphatic pathway is a fluid clearance pathway recently identified in the rodent brain. This pathway subserves the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) into the brain along arterial perivascular spaces and thence into the brain interstitium facilitated by aquaporin-4 (AQP4) water channels. The pathway then directs flows towards the venous perivascular and perineuronal spaces, ultimately clearing solutes from the neuropil into meningeal and cervical lymphatic drainage vessels. In rodents, the glymphatic pathway is primarily active during sleep, when the clearance of harmful metabolites such as amyloid β (Aβ) increases two-fold relative to the waking state. Glymphatic dysfunction has been demonstrated in animal models of traumatic brain injury (TBI), Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and micro-infarct disease, most likely in relation to perturbed expression of AQP4. The recent characterizations of the glymphatic and meningeal lymphatic systems calls for revaluation of the anatomical routes for CSF-ISF flow and the physiological role that these pathways play in CNS health. Recent developments Recent work has revealed that several features of the glymphatic and meningeal lymphatic systems are also present in humans. MRI imaging of intrathecally-administered contrast agent shows that CSF flows along pathways closely resembling the glymphatic system outlined in rodents. Furthermore, PET studies reveal that Aβ accumulates in the healthy brain after a single night of sleep deprivation, suggesting that the human glymphatic pathway might also be primarily active during sleep. Other PET studies have shown that CSF clearance of Aβ and tau tracers is reduced in patients with AD compared to healthy controls. The observed reduction in CSF clearance was associated with increasing grey matter Aβ levels in human brain, which is consistent with findings in mice showing that decreased glymphatic function leads Aβ accumulation. Altered AQP4 expression is also evident in brain tissue from AD or normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) patients; glymphatic MRI of NPH patients shows reduced CSF tracer entry and clearance. Where next? Future research is needed to confirm if specific factors driving glymphatic flow in rodents also apply to humans. Conducting longitudinal imaging studies to evaluate human CSF dynamics will determine if there is indeed a causal link between reduced brain solute clearance and the development of neurodegenerative diseases. Assessment of glymphatic function after stroke or TBI could identify if it correlates with neurological recovery. Gaining new insights into how behavior and genetics modify glymphatic function, and how this decompensates in disease should lead to the development of new preventive and diagnostic tools, as well as novel therapeutic targets.