Polymorphisms of the renin-angiotensin system are associated with cardiovascular disorders, possibly as a consequence of increased brain angiotensin II activity. Within the brain, angiotensin controls blood pressure, fluid balance and hormone secretion; it also influences behaviour: reduction of central angiotensin function has both antidepressant-like and axiolytic-like actions. Evidence concerning the role of the renin-angiotensin system in learning and memory is contradictory, although more studies support the proposal that angiotensin reduces cognitive function. Studies of renin-angiotensin system genotype and psychological status have suggested an association between the angiotensin-converting enzyme deletion allele and age related cognitive decline, but a greater prevalence of the insertion allele in Alzheimer's disease. The deletion allele has also been associated with depressive illness, as has the M allele of the angiotensinogen gene although other studies have failed to replicate these findings. The role of the brain renin-angiotensin system in human psychopathology remains to be fully explored.