Zinc in the Brain: Friend or Foe?

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Nov 25;21(23):8941. doi: 10.3390/ijms21238941.


Zinc is a trace metal ion in the central nervous system that plays important biological roles, such as in catalysis, structure, and regulation. It contributes to antioxidant function and the proper functioning of the immune system. In view of these characteristics of zinc, it plays an important role in neurophysiology, which leads to cell growth and cell proliferation. However, after brain disease, excessively released and accumulated zinc ions cause neurotoxic damage to postsynaptic neurons. On the other hand, zinc deficiency induces degeneration and cognitive decline disorders, such as increased neuronal death and decreased learning and memory. Given the importance of balance in this context, zinc is a biological component that plays an important physiological role in the central nervous system, but a pathophysiological role in major neurological disorders. In this review, we focus on the multiple roles of zinc in the brain.

Keywords: brain; pathophysiology; physiology; zinc.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Diseases / metabolism*
  • Brain Diseases / pathology
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System / pathology
  • Humans
  • Minerals / metabolism
  • Nervous System Diseases / metabolism
  • Nervous System Diseases / pathology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Trace Elements / metabolism
  • Zinc / metabolism*


  • Minerals
  • Trace Elements
  • Zinc