Insulin and the insulin receptor in experimental models of learning and memory

Eur J Pharmacol. 2004 Apr 19;490(1-3):71-81. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2004.02.045.


Insulin is best known for its action on peripheral insulin target tissues such as the adipocyte, muscle and liver to regulate glucose homeostasis. In the central nervous system (CNS), insulin and the insulin receptor are found in specific brain regions where they show evidence of participation in a variety of region-specific functions through mechanisms that are different from its direct glucose regulation in the periphery. While the insulin/insulin receptor associated with the hypothalamus plays important roles in regulation of the body energy homeostasis, the hippocampus- and cerebral cortex-distributed insulin/insulin receptor has been shown to be involved in brain cognitive functions. Emerging evidence has suggested that insulin signaling plays a role in synaptic plasticity by modulating activities of excitatory and inhibitory receptors such as glutamate and GABA receptors, and by triggering signal transduction cascades leading to alteration of gene expression that is required for long-term memory consolidation. Furthermore, deterioration of insulin receptor signaling appears to be associated with aging-related brain degeneration such as the Alzheimer's dementia and cognitive impairment in aged subjects suffering type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology
  • Humans
  • Insulin / physiology*
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Models, Animal
  • Receptor, Insulin / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Insulin
  • Receptor, Insulin