N-acetyl-L-aspartic acid: a literature review of a compound prominent in 1H-NMR spectroscopic studies of brain

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 1989 Spring;13(1):23-31. doi: 10.1016/s0149-7634(89)80048-x.


N-acetyl aspartic acid (NAA), discovered in 1956 by Tallan, is the major peak seen in water-suppressed NMR proton (hydrogen) spectroscopy. NAA makes up about one thousandth of the wet weight of human brain and appears to be limited solely to neurons. This compound has been shown to be relatively stable for a period of twenty-four hours post-mortem and the concentration of NAA is not changed by insulin-induced hypoglycemia. MAO inhibitors lower its concentration while reserpine and other drugs increase it. NAA has been implicated in many processes of the nervous system: it may be involved in the regulation of neuronal protein synthesis, myelin production, or the metabolism of several neurotransmitters such as aspartate or N-acetyl-aspartyl-glutamate. It is involved in the neurologic disorder Canavan disease and has grown to be a vital component of in vivo 1H-NMR spectroscopic studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aspartic Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • Aspartic Acid / analysis
  • Aspartic Acid / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain Chemistry
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy / methods


  • Aspartic Acid
  • Hydrogen
  • N-acetylaspartate