The brain is highly enriched with fatty acids. These include the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) arachidonic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, which are largely esterified to the phospholipid cell membrane. Once PUFAs are released from the membrane, they can participate in signal transduction, either directly or after enzymatic conversion to a variety of bioactive derivatives ('mediators'). PUFAs and their mediators regulate several processes within the brain, such as neurotransmission, cell survival and neuroinflammation, and thereby mood and cognition. PUFA levels and the signalling pathways that they regulate are altered in various neurological disorders, including Alzheimer's disease and major depression. Diet and drugs targeting PUFAs may lead to novel therapeutic approaches for the prevention and treatment of brain disorders.