Coumarins are widely distributed, plant-derived, 2H-1-benzopyran-2-one derivatives which have attracted intense interest in recent years as a result of their diverse and potent pharmacological properties. Particularly, their effects on the central nervous system (CNS) have been established. The present review discusses the most important pharmacological effects of natural and synthetic coumarins on the CNS, including their interactions with benzodiazepine receptors, their dopaminergic and serotonergic affinity, and their ability to inhibit cholinesterases and monoamine oxidases. The structure-activity relationships pertaining to these effects are also discussed. This review posits that natural or synthetic coumarins have the potential for development in the therapy of psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, schizophrenia, anxiety, epilepsy, and depression. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.