, Volume 50, Issue 2, pp 276–291 | Cite as

Hypothalamic-autonomic control of energy homeostasis

  • Patricia Seoane-CollazoEmail author
  • Johan Fernø
  • Francisco Gonzalez
  • Carlos Diéguez
  • Rosaura Leis
  • Rubén Nogueiras
  • Miguel LópezEmail author


Regulation of energy homeostasis is tightly controlled by the central nervous system (CNS). Several key areas such as the hypothalamus and brainstem receive and integrate signals conveying energy status from the periphery, such as leptin, thyroid hormones, and insulin, ultimately leading to modulation of food intake, energy expenditure (EE), and peripheral metabolism. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) plays a key role in the response to such signals, innervating peripheral metabolic tissues, including brown and white adipose tissue (BAT and WAT), liver, pancreas, and skeletal muscle. The ANS consists of two parts, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems (SNS and PSNS). The SNS regulates BAT thermogenesis and EE, controlled by central areas such as the preoptic area (POA) and the ventromedial, dorsomedial, and arcuate hypothalamic nuclei (VMH, DMH, and ARC). The SNS also regulates lipid metabolism in WAT, controlled by the lateral hypothalamic area (LHA), VMH, and ARC. Control of hepatic glucose production and pancreatic insulin secretion also involves the LHA, VMH, and ARC as well as the dorsal vagal complex (DVC), via splanchnic sympathetic and the vagal parasympathetic nerves. Muscle glucose uptake is also controlled by the SNS via hypothalamic nuclei such as the VMH. There is recent evidence of novel pathways connecting the CNS and ANS. These include the hypothalamic AMP-activated protein kinase–SNS–BAT axis which has been demonstrated to be a key modulator of thermogenesis. In this review, we summarize current knowledge of the role of the ANS in the modulation of energy balance.


Hypothalamus Autonomic nervous system Energy balance 



The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under Grant agreement No 281854—the ObERStress European Research Council Project (ML), the Xunta de Galicia (ML: 2012-CP070; RN: EM 2012/039 and 2012-CP069), Instituto de Salud Carlos III (ISCIII) (ML: PI12/01814), and MINECO co-funded by the European Union FEDER Program (RN: BFU2012-35255; CD: BFU2011-29102). CIBER de Fisiopatología de la Obesidad y Nutrición is an initiative of ISCIII. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The manuscript was edited for English language by Dr. Pamela V Lear.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patricia Seoane-Collazo
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Johan Fernø
    • 1
    • 3
  • Francisco Gonzalez
    • 4
    • 5
  • Carlos Diéguez
    • 1
    • 2
  • Rosaura Leis
    • 6
  • Rubén Nogueiras
    • 1
    • 2
  • Miguel López
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.NeurObesity Group, Department of Physiology, CIMUSUniversity of Santiago de Compostela-Instituto de Investigación SanitariaSantiago de CompostelaSpain
  2. 2.CIBER Fisiopatología de la Obesidad y Nutrición (CIBERobn)Santiago de CompostelaSpain
  3. 3.Department of Clinical Science, K. G. Jebsen Center for Diabetes ResearchUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  4. 4.Department of Surgery, CIMUSUniversity of Santiago de Compostela-Instituto de Investigación SanitariaSantiago de CompostelaSpain
  5. 5.Service of OphthalmologyComplejo Hospitalario Universitario de Santiago de CompostelaSantiago de CompostelaSpain
  6. 6.Unit of Investigation in Nutrition, Growth and Human Development of Galicia, Pediatric Department (USC)Complexo Hospitalario Universitario de Santiago (IDIS/SERGAS)Santiago de CompostelaSpain

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