Autophagy plays an important role in cellular survival by resupplying cells with nutrients during starvation or by clearing misfolded proteins and damaged organelles and thereby preventing degenerative diseases. Conversely, the autophagic process is also recognized as a cellular death mechanism. The circumstances that determine whether autophagy has a beneficial or a detrimental role in cellular survival are currently unclear. We recently showed that autophagy induction is detrimental in neurons that lack a functional AMPK enzyme (AMP-activated protein kinase) and that suffer from severe metabolic stress. We further demonstrated that autophagy and AMPK are interconnected in a negative feedback loop that prevents excessive and destructive stimulation of the autophagic process. Finally, we uncovered a new survival mechanism in AMPK-deficient neurons-cell cannibalism.