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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 1988 Spring;12(1):29-37.

Glucocorticoids and hypothalamic obesity.

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Department of Psychology, University of New Orleans, LA 70148.


Recent studies have demonstrated a role for adrenal glucocorticoid hormones in the hyperphagia and obesity which follow lesions of the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH). Although VMH lesions elevate morning plasma corticosterone levels, it is concluded that this contributes little to the development of obesity. More importantly, animals with VMH lesions appear to be hyperresponsive to very low levels of circulating glucocorticoids. The overeating and obesity are both prevented and reversed by either complete adrenalectomy or complete hypophysectomy (i.e., resulting in plasma corticosterone levels of less than 1.0 microgram/dl) and restored by dosages of glucocorticoids that have no effect on feeding behavior and weight gain in nonlesioned adrenalectomized animals. Mineralocorticoid hormones have no effect on hypothalamic obesity. Judging by the time course of effects on feeding behavior in VMH-damaged mice of a single intracerebroventricular injection of a low dose of glucocorticoid, which has no effect when administered intraperitoneally, it is concluded that glucocorticoids exert their effect centrally in a permissive, rather than a regulatory, manner. Stimulation of the neighboring paraventricular nuclei (PVN) with norepinephrine or neuropeptide Y produces a rapid feeding response which is also abolished by adrenalectomy and restored with administration of glucocorticoids. However, it is unlikely that the PVN is the site at which glucocorticoids exert their effect in animals with VMH lesions, for PVN lesions or knife-cuts, or combination VMH-PVN lesions, also result in hyperphagia and obesity. It is concluded that adrenal glucocorticoid hormones exert their permissive effects on feeding behavior at brain sites other than the medial hypothalamus. The septo-hippocampal complex is suggested as a possible site.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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