Machado-Joseph disease (MJD, also known as spinocerebellar ataxia-3) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that impairs control and coordination of movement. Here we tested whether treatment with the histone deacetylase inhibitor sodium valproate (SV) prevented a movement phenotype that develops in larvae of a transgenic zebrafish model of the disease. We found that treatment with SV improved the swimming of the MJD zebrafish, increased levels of acetylated histones 3 and 4, but also increased expression of polyglutamine expanded human ataxin-3. Proteomic analysis of protein lysates generated from the treated and untreated MJD zebrafish also predicted that SV treatment had activated the sirtuin longevity signaling pathway and this was confirmed by findings of increased SIRT1 protein levels and sirtuin activity in SV treated MJD zebrafish and HEK293 cells expressing ataxin-3-84Q, respectively. Treatment with resveratrol (another compound known to activate the sirtuin pathway), also improved swimming in the MJD zebrafish. Co-treatment with SV alongside EX527, a SIRT1 activity inhibitor, prevented induction of autophagy by SV and the beneficial effects of SV on the movement in the MJD zebrafish, indicating that they were both dependent on sirtuin activity. These findings provide the first evidence of sodium valproate inducing activation of the sirtuin pathway. Further, they indicate that drugs that target the sirtuin pathway, including sodium valproate and resveratrol, warrant further investigation for the treatment of MJD and related neurodegenerative diseases.