To develop a novel and effective drug that could enhance cognitive function and neuroprotection, we newly synthesized maltolyl p-coumarate by the esterification of maltol and p-coumaric acid. In the present study, we investigated whether maltolyl p-coumarate could improve cognitive decline in scopolamine-injected rats and in amyloid beta peptide1–42-infused rats. Maltolyl p-coumarate was found to attenuate cognitive deficits in both rat models using passive avoidance test and to reduce apoptotic cell death observed in the hippocampus of the amyloid beta peptide1–42-infused rats. We also examined the neuroprotective effects of maltolyl p-coumarate in vitro using SH-SY5Y cells. Cells were pretreated with maltolyl p-coumarate, before exposed to amyloid beta peptide1–42, glutamate or H2O2. We found that maltolyl p-coumarate significantly decreased apoptotic cell death and reduced reactive oxygen species, cytochrome c release, and caspase 3 activation. Taking these in vitro and in vivo results together, our study suggests that maltolyl p-coumarate is a potentially effective candidate against Alzheimer's disease that is characterized by wide spread neuronal death and progressive decline of cognitive function. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.