Metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD) is a lipidosis caused by deficiency of arylsulfatase A (ARSA). Although the genetics of MLD are known, its pathophysiology is not understood. The disease leads to progressive demyelination and early death and no effective treatment is available. We used lentiviral vectors to deliver a functional ARSA gene (human ARSA) into the brain of adult mice with germ-line inactivation of the mouse gene encoding ARSA, As2. We report sustained expression of active enzyme throughout a large portion of the brain, with long-term protection from development of neuropathology and hippocampal-related learning impairments. We show that selective degeneration of hippocampal neurons is a central step in disease pathogenesis, and provide evidence that in vivo transfer of ARSA by lentiviral vectors reverts the disease phenotype in all investigated areas. Therefore, in vivo gene therapy offers a unique option for MLD and other storage diseases affecting the central nervous system