Viruses with the ability to establish persistent infection in the central nervous system (CNS) can induce progressive neurologic disorders associated with diverse pathological manifestations. Clinical, epidemiological, and virological evidence supports the hypothesis that viruses contribute to human mental diseases whose etiology remains elusive. Therefore, the investigation of the mechanisms whereby viruses persist in the CNS and disturb normal brain function represents an area of research relevant to clinical and basic neurosciences. Borna disease virus (BDV) causes CNS disease in several vertebrate species characterized by behavioral abnormalities. Based on its unique features, BDV represents the prototype of a new virus family. BDV provides an important model for the investigation of the mechanisms and consequences of viral persistence in the CNS. The BDV paradigm is amenable to study virus-cell interactions in the CNS that can lead to neurodevelopmental abnormalities, immune-mediated damage, as well as alterations in cell differentiated functions that affect brain homeostasis. Moreover, seroepidemiological data and recent molecular studies indicate that BDV is associated with certain neuropsychiatric diseases. The potential role of BDV and of other yet to be uncovered BDV-related viruses in human mental health provides additional impetus for the investigation of this novel neurotropic infectious agent.