In recent years, the central nervous system (CNS) has emerged as a principle site of insulin action. This notion is supported by studies in animals relying on intracerebroventricular insulin infusion and by experiments in humans that make use of the intranasal pathway of insulin administration to the brain. Employing neurobehavioural and metabolic measurements as well as functional imaging techniques, these studies have provided insight into a broad range of central and peripheral effects of brain insulin. The present review focusses on CNS effects of insulin administered via the intranasal route on cognition, in particular memory function, and whole-body energy homeostasis including glucose metabolism. Furthermore, evidence is reviewed that suggests a pathophysiological role of impaired brain insulin signaling in obesity and type 2 diabetes, which are hallmarked by peripheral and possibly central nervous insulin resistance, as well as in conditions such as Alzheimer's disease where CNS insulin resistance might contribute to cognitive dysfunction.