Bioactive lipid messengers are formed through phospholipase-mediated cleavage of specific phospholipids from membrane reservoirs. Effectors that activate the synthesis of lipid messengers, include ion channels, neurotransmitters, membrane depolarization, cytokines, and neurotrophic factors. In turn, lipid messengers regulate and interact with multiple pathways, participating in the development, differentiation, function (e.g., long-term potentiation and memory), protection, and repair of cells of the nervous system. Overall, bioactive lipids participate in the regulation of synaptic function and dysfunction. Platelet-activating factor (PAF) and COX-2-synthesized PGE(2) modulate synaptic plasticity and memory. Oxidative stress disrupts lipid signaling, fosters lipid peroxidation, and initiates and propagates neurodegeneration. Lipid messengers participate in the interactions among neurons, astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, microglia, cells of the microvasculature, and other cells. A conglomerate of interrelated cells comprises the neurovascular unit. Signaling at the neurovascular unit is clearly altered in the early stages of cerebrovascular disease as well as in neurodegenerations. Here we will provide examples of how signaling by lipids regulates critical events essential for neuronal survival. We will highlight a newly identified, DHA-derived messenger, neuroprotectin D1, which attenuates oxidative stress-induced apoptosis. The specificity and potency of this novel docosanoid (neuroprotectin D1) indicate a potentially important target for therapeutic intervention.