Neuropeptides Controlling Our Behavior

  • Eduardo A. NillniEmail author


Major contributors in the control of food intake include behavioral response to the environment, hedonic behavior, and metabolism: nutrient sensors, neuropeptide hormones, and peripheral hormones. All combined contribute to three primary stimuli to eat: hunger, reward, and stress. The brain plays a critical role in relaying information about the neuroendocrine and endocrine system regulating the energy network. The mechanisms for controlling food intake require interaction among three major components: the gut, brain, and adipose tissue. The parasympathetic, sympathetic, and other systems are also needed for communication between the brain satiety center, gut, and adipose tissue. These neuronal circuits include many neuropeptide hormones and peptide hormones coming from the periphery, all acting in concert in the regulation of food intake and energy homeostasis. This chapter describes mostly brain peptide hormones and some coming from the periphery. The interested reader could find a full description of all peptide hormones involved in energy balance regulation in a recent review by Crespo et al. (2014). Although regulation of energy homeostasis engages several brain regions including the brainstem, cortex, amygdala, and the limbic system, it is the hypothalamus that is responsible for integrating neuronal and humoral signals in the control feeding behavior. In response to sensory and social stimulation including visual, smell, taste, stress, reward, culture, and exercise, a feeding center in the hypothalamus initiates food uptake that is then terminated by a satiety center. Both the gastrointestinal tract and the white fat cells are responsible for releasing hormone signals that are integrated with the hypothalamus and nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS) to control feeding neural circuits. In spite of the sophistication of these interconnected systems, which are tightly regulated to control energy demand with energy expenditure, the recent sizeable increase in the prevalence of obesity seen in modern urban societies represents a deviation of this evolutionary control of weight homeostasis. Among the major contributors to this disarrangement of the feeding control system are highly palatable and relatively cheap foods ubiquitously available and unfamiliar to our genetic repertoire. The massive reduction in physical activity also contributed to this condition. These current life factors combined with the evolutionary genetic predisposition are the leading causes of the common obesity. This chapter describes the role of neuropeptide and some essential peripheral hormones interacting in the hypothalamus toward controlling feeding behavior. The role of hypothalamic nutrient sensors, important in metabolic sensing, is discussed in Chap.  7.


Hypothalamus peptides neuroendocrine TSH TRH CRH ACTH oxytocin prolactin growth hormone neurosecretory NPY α-MSH arcuate nucleus lateral hypothalamus dorsomedial hypothalamus brain stem ghrelin PYY CCK leptin adiponectin glucose amino acids ventromedial hypothalamus proTRH proNPY POMC CREB cAMP PKA PC1 PC2 Egr-1 paraventricular nucleus insulin proinsulin STAT3 Foxo1 CPE CPD thyroid hormone median eminence feeding energy expenditure 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Emeritus Professor of Medicine, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology & Biochemistry, Department of Medicine, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology & BiochemistryThe Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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