The non-autonomous control of cell survival has long been thought to be a mechanism of adjusting cell populations in the vertebrate nervous system, enabling connectivity and myelination to produce a functional brain. Despite cellular evidence that analogous mechanisms occur in invertebrates, scepticism has long reigned over whether they operate in model organisms such as Drosophila. This has led to speculation that there are inherent differences between the development and evolution of simple brains and the brains of vertebrates. The great paradox has, until recently, been the absence of molecular evidence of trophic factors in Drosophila. Recent data have finally shown that EGFR (epidermal-growth-factor receptor) ligands function in the Drosophila CNS to maintain glial survival. Trophic interactions are, thus, a general mechanism of nervous system development.