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Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 963520, 14 pages
Review Article

ROS and Brain Diseases: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

1Department of Psychiatry, Rostock University Medical School, Gehlsheimer Straße 20, 18147 Rostock, Germany
2Center of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Medicine and Pharmacy, 200349 Craiova, Romania
3Department of Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Ames, IA 50011, USA
4Stanford University School of Medicine, MIPS, Canary Center at Stanford for Cancer Early Detection, CA 94304, USA

Received 12 August 2013; Revised 4 November 2013; Accepted 5 November 2013

Academic Editor: Cinzia Signorini

Copyright © 2013 Aurel Popa-Wagner et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The brain is a major metabolizer of oxygen and yet has relatively feeble protective antioxidant mechanisms. This paper reviews the Janus-faced properties of reactive oxygen species. It will describe the positive aspects of moderately induced ROS but it will also outline recent research findings concerning the impact of oxidative and nitrooxidative stress on neuronal structure and function in neuropsychiatric diseases, including major depression. A common denominator of all neuropsychiatric diseases including schizophrenia and ADHD is an increased inflammatory response of the brain caused either by an exposure to proinflammatory agents during development or an accumulation of degenerated neurons, oxidized proteins, glycated products, or lipid peroxidation in the adult brain. Therefore, modulation of the prooxidant-antioxidant balance provides a therapeutic option which can be used to improve neuroprotection in response to oxidative stress. We also discuss the neuroprotective role of the nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor (Nrf2) in the aged brain in response to oxidative stressors and nanoparticle-mediated delivery of ROS-scavenging drugs. The antioxidant therapy is a novel therapeutic strategy. However, the available drugs have pleiotropic actions and are not fully characterized in the clinic. Additional clinical trials are needed to assess the risks and benefits of antioxidant therapies for neuropsychiatric disorders.