Insulin receptors and insulin action in the brain: review and clinical implications

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2000 Dec;24(8):855-72. doi: 10.1016/s0149-7634(00)00040-3.


Insulin receptors are known to be located on nerve cells in mammalian brain. The binding of insulin to dimerized receptors stimulates specialized transporter proteins that mediate the facilitated influx of glucose. However, neurons possess other mechanisms by which they obtain glucose, including transporters that are not insulin-dependent. Further, insulin receptors are unevenly distributed throughout the brain (with particularly high density in choroid plexus, olfactory bulb and regions of the striatum and cerebral cortex). Such factors imply that insulin, and insulin receptors, might have functions within the central nervous system in addition to those related to the supply of glucose. Indeed, invertebrate insulin-related peptides are synthesized in brain and serve as neurotransmitters or neuromodulators. The present review summarizes the structure, distribution and function of mammalian brain insulin receptors and the possible implications for central nervous system disorders. It is proposed that this is an under-studied subject of investigation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain Chemistry / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Insulin / pharmacology*
  • Receptor, Insulin / metabolism*


  • Insulin
  • Receptor, Insulin