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Adiposity signals and food reward: expanding the CNS roles of insulin and leptin.

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  • Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle Division, Seattle 98108, USA. latte@u.washington.edu


The hormones insulin and leptin have been proposed to act in the central nervous system (CNS) as adiposity signals as part of a theoretical negative feedback loop that senses the caloric stores of an animal and orchestrates adjustments in energy balance and food intake. Much research has provided support for both the existence of such a feedback loop and the specific roles that insulin and leptin may play. Most studies have focused on hypothalamic sites, which historically are implicated in the regulation of energy balance, and on the brain stem, which is a target for neural and humoral signals relating to ingestive acts. More recent lines of research, including studies from our lab, suggest that in addition to these CNS sites, brain reward circuitry may be a target for insulin and leptin action. These studies are reviewed together here with the goals of providing a historical overview of the findings that have substantiated the originally hypothesized negative feedback model and of opening up new lines of investigation that will build on these findings and allow further refinement of the model of adiposity signal/CNS feedback loop. The understanding of how motivational circuitry and its endocrine or neuroendocrine modulation contributes to normal energy balance regulation should expand possibilities for future therapeutic approaches to obesity and may lead to important insights into mental illnesses such as substance abuse or eating disorders.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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