Insulin Action in Brain Regulates Systemic Metabolism and Brain Function

  1. C. Ronald Kahn
  1. Section on Integrative Physiology and Metabolism, Joslin Diabetes Center and Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
  1. Corresponding author: C. Ronald Kahn, c.ronald.kahn{at}


Insulin receptors, as well as IGF-1 receptors and their postreceptor signaling partners, are distributed throughout the brain. Insulin acts on these receptors to modulate peripheral metabolism, including regulation of appetite, reproductive function, body temperature, white fat mass, hepatic glucose output, and response to hypoglycemia. Insulin signaling also modulates neurotransmitter channel activity, brain cholesterol synthesis, and mitochondrial function. Disruption of insulin action in the brain leads to impairment of neuronal function and synaptogenesis. In addition, insulin signaling modulates phosphorylation of tau protein, an early component in the development of Alzheimer disease. Thus, alterations in insulin action in the brain can contribute to metabolic syndrome, and the development of mood disorders and neurodegenerative diseases.

  • Received April 7, 2014.
  • Accepted April 26, 2014.

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