There is increasing evidence that reactive oxygen species (ROS) are not only toxic but play an important role in cellular signaling and in the regulation of gene expression. A number of biochemical and physiologic stimuli, such as perturbation in redox status, expression of misfolded proteins, altered glyc(osyl)ation and glucose deprivation, overloading of products of polyunsaturated fatty acid peroxidation (Hydroxynonenals, HNE) or cholesterol oxidation and decomposition, can disrupt redox homeostasis, impose stress and subsequently lead to accumulation of unfolded or misfolded proteins in brain cells. Alzheimer's (AD), Parkinson's (PD), Huntington's disease (HD), Amyothrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) are major neurological disorders associated with production of abnormal proteins and, as such, belong to the so called "protein conformational diseases". The Central Nervous System has evolved highly specific signaling pathways called the unfolded protein response to cope with the accumulation of unfolded or misfolded proteins. Recent discoveries of the mechanisms of cellular stress signaling have led to major new insights into the diverse processes that are regulated by cellular stress response. Thus, the pathogenic dysfunctional aggregation of proteins in non-native conformations is associated with metabolic derangements and excessive production of ROS. The brain response to detect and control metabolic or oxidative stress is accomplished by a complex network of "longevity assurance processes" integrated to the expression of genes termed vitagenes. Heat shock proteins are a highly conserved system responsible for the preservation and repair of correct protein conformation. Heme oxygenase-1, a inducible and redox-regulated enzyme, is currently considered as having an important role in cellular antioxidant defense. A neuroprotective effect, due to its heme degrading activity, and tissue-specific antioxidant effects due to its products CO and biliverdin, this latter being further reduced by biliverdin reductase in bilirubin is an emerging concept. There is a current interest in dietary compounds that can inhibit, retard or reverse the multi-stage pathophysiology of Alzheimer disease, with a chronic inflammatory response, brain injury and beta-amyloid associated pathology. Curcumin and ferulic acid, two powerful antioxidants, the first from the curry spice turmeric and the second a major constituent of fruit and vegetables, have emerged as strong inducers of the heat shock response. Food supplementation with curcumin and ferulic acid is considered a nutritional approach to reduce oxidative damage and amyloid pathology in Alzheimer disease. This review summarizes the complex regulation of cellular stress signaling and its relevance to human physiology and disease.