Ghrelin is a 28-amino-acid peptide hormone, first described in 1999 and broadly expressed in the organism. As the only known orexigenic hormone secreted in the periphery, it increases hunger and appetite, promoting food intake. Ghrelin has also been shown to be involved in various physiological processes being regulated in the central nervous system such as sleep, mood, memory and reward. Accordingly, it has been implicated in a series of psychiatric disorders, making it subject of increasing investigation, with knowledge rapidly accumulating. This review aims at providing a concise yet comprehensive overview of the role of ghrelin in psychiatric disorders. Ghrelin was consistently shown to exert neuroprotective and memory-enhancing effects and alleviated psychopathology in animal models of dementia. Few human studies show a disruption of the ghrelin system in dementia. It was also shown to play a crucial role in the pathophysiology of addictive disorders, promoting drug reward, enhancing drug seeking behavior and increasing craving in both animals and humans. Ghrelin's exact role in depression and anxiety is still being debated, as it was shown to both promote and alleviate depressive and anxiety-behavior in animal studies, with an overweight of evidence suggesting antidepressant effects. Not surprisingly, the ghrelin system is also implicated in eating disorders, however its exact role remains to be elucidated. Its widespread involvement has made the ghrelin system a promising target for future therapies, with encouraging findings in recent literature.
Keywords: Addiction; Alzheimer; Depression; Eating disorder; Ghrelin; Psychiatry.
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