The evaluation of insulin as a metabolic signal influencing behavior via the brain

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 1996;20(1):139-44. doi: 10.1016/0149-7634(95)00044-f.


The intent of this paper is to evaluate decreases of food intake and body weight that occur when a peptide is administered to an animal. Using the pancreatic hormone insulin as an example, the case is made that endogenous insulin is normally secreted in response to circulating nutrients as well as in proportion to the degree of adiposity. Hence, its levels in the blood are a reliable indicator of adiposity. A further case is then made demonstrating that insulin is transported through the blood-brain barrier into the brain, where it gains access to neurons containing specific insulin receptors that are important in the control of feeding and metabolism. Finally, experimentally-induced changes of insulin in the brain cause predictable changes of food intake and body weight. Given these observations, the question is then asked: since endogenous insulin, acting within the brain, appears to decrease food intake, can a decrease of food intake caused by exogenous insulin administered into the same area of the brain be ascribed to the same, naturally-occurring response system, or should it be attributed to malaise or a non-specific depression of behavior? Arguments are presented supporting the former position that exogenous insulin, when administered in small quantities directly into the brain, taps into the natural caloric/metabolic system and hence influences food intake and body weight.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Insulin / physiology*
  • Oxytocin / physiology
  • Rats


  • Insulin
  • Oxytocin