Neurodegenerative diseases are characterized pathologically by the abnormal accumulation of pathogenic protein species within the cell. Several neurodegenerative diseases feature intranuclear protein aggregation in the form of intranclear inclusion bodies. Studies of these intranuclear inclusions are providing important clues regarding the cellular pathophysiology of these diseases, as exemplified by recent progress in defining the genetic basis of a subset of frontotemporal dementia cases. The precise role of intranuclear inclusion bodies in disease pathogenesis is currently a focus of debate. The present review provides an overview of the diverse family of neurodegenerative diseases in which nuclear inclusions form part of the neuropathological spectrum. In addition, current pathogenetic concepts relevant to these diseases will be reviewed and arguments for and against a protective role for intranuclear inclusions will be presented. The relationship of pathological intranuclear inclusions to functional intranuclear bodies will also be discussed. Finally, by analogy with pathological intranuclear inclusions, I will speculate on the possibility that intranuclear protein aggregation may represent a constitutive cellular protective mechanism occurring in neurons under physiological conditions.