Selenium is an essential trace element although the level of selenium in food items reflects the soil in which they were grown and thus varies markedly between different parts of the world. The metabolism of selenium by the brain differs from other organs in that at times of deficiency the brain retains selenium to a greater extent. The preferential retention of selenium in the brain suggests that it plays important functions. To date mood is the clearest example of an aspect of psychological functioning that is modified by selenium intake. Five studies have reported that a low selenium intake was associated with poorer mood. The underlying mechanism is unclear although a response to supplementation was found with doses greater than those needed to produce maximal activity of the selenoprotein glutathione peroxidase. Although the functions of many selenoproteins are unknown some play important roles in anti-oxidant mechanisms. As there are suggestions that oxidative injury plays a role in normal aging, schizophrenia, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, the possible role of selenium is considered. Although there is evidence that supplementation with anti-oxidant vitamins shown some promise with Alzheimer's patients, and in preventing the development of tardive dyskinesia in schizophrenics taking neuroleptics, a role for selenium has been little considered.