Increased free radical generation and decreased efficiency of the reparative/degradative mechanisms both primarily contribute to age-related elevation in the level of oxidative stress and brain damage. Excess formation of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species can cause proteasomal dysfunction and protein overloading. The major neurodegenerative diseases are all associated with the presence of abnormal proteins. Different integrated responses exist in the brain to detect oxidative stress which is controlled by several genes termed vitagenes, including the heat shock protein (HSP) system. Of the various HSPs, heme oxygenase-I (HO-1), by generating the vasoactive molecule carbon monoxide and the potent antioxidant bilirubin, could represent a protective system potentially active against brain oxidative injury. The HO-1 gene is redox regulated and its expression is modulated by redox active compounds, including nutritional antioxidants. Given the broad cytoprotective properties of the heat shock response, there is now strong interest in discovering and developing pharmacological agents capable of inducing the heat shock response. These findings have opened up new neuroprotective strategies, as molecules inducing this defense mechanism can be a therapeutic target to minimize the deleterious consequences associated with accumulation of conformationally aberrant proteins to oxidative stress, such as in neurodegenerative disorders and brain aging, with resulting prolongation of a healthy life span.