The performance of neural electrodes implanted in the brain is often limited by host response in the surrounding brain tissue, including astrocytic scar formation, neuronal cell death, and inflammation around the implant. We applied conformal microgel coatings to silicon neural electrodes and examined host responses to microgel-coated and uncoated electrodes following implantation in the rat brain. In vitro analyses demonstrated significantly reduced astrocyte and microglia adhesion to microgel-coated electrodes compared to uncoated controls. Microgel-coated and uncoated electrodes were implanted in the rat brain cortex and the extent of activated microglia and astrocytes as well as neuron density around the implant were evaluated at 1, 4, and 24 weeks postimplantation. Microgel coatings reduced astrocytic recruitment around the implant at later time points. However, microglial response indicated persistence of inflammation in the area around the electrode. Neuronal density around the implanted electrodes was also lower for both implant groups compared to the uninjured control. These results demonstrate that microgel coatings do not significantly improve host responses to implanted neural electrodes and underscore the need for further improvements in implantable materials. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A: 102A: 1486–1499, 2014.