The mechanisms of action of flavonoids in the brain: Direct versus indirect effects

Catarina Rendeiro, Justin S. Rhodes, Jeremy P.E. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The projected increase in the incidence of dementia in the population highlights the urgent need for a more comprehensive understanding of how different aspects of lifestyle, in particular exercise and diet, may affect neural function and consequent cognitive performance throughout the life course. In this regard, flavonoids, found in a variety of fruits, vegetables and derived beverages, have been identified as a group of promising bioactive compounds capable of influencing different aspects of brain function, including cerebrovascular blood flow and synaptic plasticity, both resulting in improvements in learning and memory in mammalian species. However, the precise mechanisms by which flavonoids exert these actions are yet to be fully established, although accumulating data indicate an ability to interact with neuronal receptors and kinase signaling pathways which are key to neuronal activation and communication and synaptic strengthening. Alternatively or concurrently, there is also compelling evidence derived from human clinical studies suggesting that flavonoids can positively affect peripheral and cerebrovascular blood flow, which may be an indirect effective mechanism by which dietary flavonoids can impact on brain health and cognition. The current review examines the beneficial effects of flavonoids on both human and animal brain function and attempts to address and link direct and indirect actions of flavonoids and their derivatives within the central nervous system (CNS).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)126-139
Number of pages14
JournalNeurochemistry International
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015


  • Blood flow
  • Brain
  • Cognition
  • Flavonoid
  • Memory
  • Plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology

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