Recent work in neuroscience has shown that the adult central nervous system (CNS) contains neural progenitors, precursors and stem cells that are capable of generating new neurons, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. While challenging the previous dogma that no new neurons are born in the adult mammalian CNS, these findings bring with them the future possibilities for development of novel neural repair strategies. The purpose of this review is to present the current knowledge about constitutively occurring adult mammalian neurogenesis, highlight the critical differences between 'neurogenic' and 'non-neurogenic' regions in the adult brain, and describe the cardinal features of two well-described neurogenic regions-the subventricular zone/olfactory bulb system and the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus. We also provide an overview of presently used models for studying neural precursors in vitro, mention some precursor transplantation models and emphasize that, in this rapidly growing field of neuroscience, one must be cautious with respect to a variety of methodological considerations for studying neural precursor cells both in vitro and in vivo. The possibility of repairing neural circuitry by manipulating neurogenesis is an intriguing one, and, therefore, we also review recent efforts to understand the conditions under which neurogenesis can be induced in non-neurogenic regions of the adult CNS. This work aims towards molecular and cellular manipulation of endogenous neural precursors in situ, without transplantation. We conclude this review with a discussion of what might be the function of newly generated neurons in the adult brain, and provide a summary of present thinking about the consequences of disturbed adult neurogenesis and the reaction of neurogenic regions to disease.