Ghrelin modulates brain activity in areas that control appetitive behavior

Cell Metab. 2008 May;7(5):400-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2008.03.007.


Feeding behavior is often separated into homeostatic and hedonic components. Hedonic feeding, which can be triggered by visual or olfactory food cues, involves brain regions that play a role in reward and motivation, while homeostatic feeding is thought to be under the control of circulating hormones acting primarily on the hypothalamus. Ghrelin is a peptide hormone secreted by the gut that causes hunger and food consumption. Here, we show that ghrelin administered intravenously to healthy volunteers during functional magnetic resonance imaging increased the neural response to food pictures in regions of the brain, including the amygdala, orbitofrontal cortex, anterior insula, and striatum, implicated in encoding the incentive value of food cues. The effects of ghrelin on the amygdala and OFC response were correlated with self-rated hunger ratings. This demonstrates that metabolic signals such as ghrelin may favor food consumption by enhancing the hedonic and incentive responses to food-related cues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Appetite Regulation / drug effects*
  • Appetite Regulation / physiology
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Eating / drug effects*
  • Eating / physiology
  • Ghrelin / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Hunger / physiology
  • Male
  • Satiation / drug effects*


  • Ghrelin