Several studies support the idea that the polypeptides belonging to the family of insulin and insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) play an important role in brain development and continue to be produced in discrete areas of the adult brain. In numerous neuronal populations within the olfactory bulb, the cerebral and cerebellar cortex, the hippocampus, some diencephalic and brainstem nuclei, the spinal cord and the retina, specific insulin and IGF receptors, as well as crucial components of the intracellular receptor signaling pathway have been demonstrated. Thus, mature neurons are endowed with the cellular machinery to respond to insulin and IGF stimulation. Studies in vitro and in vivo, using normal and transgenic animals, have led to the hypothesis that, in the adult brain, IGF-I not only acts as a trophic factor, but also as a neuromodulator of some higher brain functions, such as long-term potentiation and depression. Furthermore, a trophic effect on certain neuronal populations becomes clearly evident in the ischemic brain or neurodegenerative disorders. Thus, the analysis of the early intracellular signaling pathway for the insulin/IGF receptor family in the brain is providing us with new intriguing findings on the way the mammalian brain is sculpted and operates.