Brain insulin signaling and Alzheimer's disease: current evidence and future directions

Mol Neurobiol. 2012 Aug;46(1):4-10. doi: 10.1007/s12035-011-8229-6. Epub 2011 Dec 29.


Insulin receptors in the brain are found in high densities in the hippocampus, a region that is fundamentally involved in the acquisition, consolidation, and recollection of new information. Using the intranasal method, which effectively bypasses the blood-brain barrier to deliver and target insulin directly from the nose to the brain, a series of experiments involving healthy humans has shown that increased central nervous system (CNS) insulin action enhances learning and memory processes associated with the hippocampus. Since Alzheimer's disease (AD) is linked to CNS insulin resistance, decreased expression of insulin and insulin receptor genes and attenuated permeation of blood-borne insulin across the blood-brain barrier, impaired brain insulin signaling could partially account for the cognitive deficits associated with this disease. Considering that insulin mitigates hippocampal synapse vulnerability to amyloid beta and inhibits the phosphorylation of tau, pharmacological strategies bolstering brain insulin signaling, such as intranasal insulin, could have significant therapeutic potential to deter AD pathogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / administration & dosage
  • Insulin / adverse effects
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Memory
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Insulin