Insulin increases glucose transfer across the blood-brain barrier in man

J Clin Invest. 1981 Mar;67(3):597-604. doi: 10.1172/JCI110073.


The influence of insulin on unidirectional flux of glucose across the blood-brain barrier and on net uptake of glucose by the brain was investigated in seven fasting patients. The unidirectional extraction, E, of [14C]D-glucose was determined using 36Cl- as an intravascular reference, by the indicator dilution method. 0.4 U insulin/kg body wt was infused intravenously over 30 min while blood glucose was maintained constant by glucose infusion. Six determinations were made in each patient, two before, two during insulin infusion, and two after. In connection with each blood-brain barrier study, arterial and cerebral venous samples were taken for measurement of glucose, oxygen, insulin, K+, and phosphate. Cerebral blood flow (CBF) was measured in each patient. The main finding was an increased extraction of glucose from 14 to 21% and a highly significant increase in unidirectional flux (CBF X unidirectional extraction X arterial glucose concentration) from 0.46 to 0.66 mumol/g X min during insulin infusion (plasma insulin approximately 1,500 microU/ml). The net brain uptake of glucose (CBF X arterio-venous difference for glucose) as unaltered during the investigation period of 45 min, which is too short a time for insulin to penetrate the barrier. It follows that the backflux of glucose from the brain was increased during insulin application. The effect of insulin might be a speeding up of the glucose carrier in analogy to heart muscle.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport / drug effects
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Blood-Brain Barrier*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / pharmacology*
  • Oxygen Consumption / drug effects
  • Stimulation, Chemical


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Glucose