Selenium and Cognition: Mechanism and Evidence

  • Dawd GashuEmail author
  • Barbara J. Stoecker
Living reference work entry

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Selenium (Se) is important for cognition by way of its contribution to the reduction of oxidative stress. Reactive species (RS) are generated during the normal course of metabolism in the body. Evidence shows that RS are known to regulate cellular functions. They also participate in the immune system and biosynthesis of macromolecules. On the other hand, accumulated RS are highly toxic to the body and they are major concern in the pathogenesis of chronic diseases including cancers, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative diseases. Every aerobic cell is vulnerable to attack by RS consequently, resulting in oxidative stress. However, the brain is particularly susceptible to oxidative stress due to its composition and physiology. Oxidative stress to the brain is associated with cognitive deficits, mood disorders, and behavioral problems. Evidence from animal and human studies suggest the importance of selenium for cognitive performance, mood, and behavior through protection against oxidative damage to substrates including low-density lipoproteins (LDL), hydroperoxide, hydrogen peroxide, peroxynitrite, and tert-butyl hydroxyperoxide (t-BHP). The dose response relationship between Se and cognitive performance is nonlinear suggesting both deficiency and excess intake results in adverse neurobehavioral outcomes. In addition, through its role in thyroid metabolism, limited evidence suggests the importance of selenium in improving cognitive performance of persons with hypothyroidism.


Alzheimer’s disease Antioxidant Brain Cognition Depression Oxidative stress Mood Reactive oxygen species Selenoproteins Selenium 

List of Abbreviations


Alzheimer’s disease


Adenosine triphosphate


Cerebrospinal fluid


Copper, zinc-superoxide dismutase


Deoxyribonucleic acid




Glutathione peroxidase




Low density lipoprotein


Mild cognitive impairment


Behavioral neurological assessment




Ribonucleic acid


Reactive oxygen species


Reactive species


Reverse triiodothyronine




Selenoprotein P


Superoxide dismutase








Thiobarbituric acid reactive substances


Tert-butyl hydroxyperoxide


Thioredoxin reductase


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Food Science and NutritionAddis Ababa UniversityAddis AbabaEthiopia
  2. 2.Department of Nutritional SciencesOklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA

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