In a double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study, the effects of S-adenosyl-l-methionine (SAMe) on brain function measures of 12 normal elderly volunteers (6 m/6 f, aged 57-73 years, mean: 61 years) were investigated by means of EEG mapping and psychometry. In random order, the subjects were orally administered a pharmaceutical dose of 1600 mg SAMe, a nutraceutical dose of 400 mg SAMe and placebo, each over a period of 15 days, with wash-out periods of 2 weeks in between. EEG recordings, psychometric tests and evaluations of tolerability and side effects were carried out 0, 1, 3 and 6 h after drug administration on days 1 and 15. Multivariate analysis based on MANOVA/Hotelling T2 tests of quantitative EEG data demonstrated significant central effects of SAMe as compared with placebo after acute, subacute and superimposed drug administration of both the nutraceutical and the pharmaceutical dose. EEG changes induced by SAMe were characterized by an increase in total power, a decrease in absolute and relative power in the delta/theta and slow alpha frequencies, an increase in absolute and relative power in the alpha-2 and beta frequencies as well as an acceleration of the alpha centroid and the centroid of the total power spectrum. The delta/theta and the beta centroid showed variable changes over time. The dominant alpha frequency was accelerated, the absolute and relative power in the dominant alpha frequency attenuated after SAMe as compared with placebo. These acute and subacute pharmaco-EEG findings in elderly subjects are typical of activating antidepressants. Time-efficacy calculations showed that acute oral administration of SAMe in both the nutraceutical and the pharmaceutical dose induced the pharmacodynamic peak effect in the first hour with a subsequent decline. The 3rd and 6th hours still showed a significant encephalotropic effect after the 1600 mg dose. The maximum EEG effect was noted after 2 weeks of oral administration of both 1600 mg/die and 400 mg/die. The superimposed dose induced significant encephalotropic effects in the 3rd hour after 400 mg and in the 3rd and 6th hours after 1600 mg as compared with pre-treatment. Dose-efficacy calculations showed that the pharmaceutical dose of 1600 mg had a more pronounced effect on the CNS than the nutraceutical dose of 400 mg, with both doses being superior to placebo. Psychometric tests concerning noopsychic and thymopsychic measures as well as critical flicker fusion frequency generally demonstrated a lack of differences between SAMe and placebo, which reflects a good tolerability of the drug in elderly subjects. This was corroborated by the findings on side effects, pulse and blood pressure.