Minireview: Food for Thought

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The peripheral actions of the metabolic hormones, leptin and insulin, are well documented. However, the functions of these hormones are not restricted to the periphery because evidence is growing that both leptin and insulin can readily cross the blood-brain barrier and have widespread central actions. The hippocampus in particular expresses high levels of both insulin and leptin receptors as well as key components of their associated signaling cascades. Moreover, recent studies indicate that both hormones are potential cognitive enhancers. Indeed, it has been demonstrated that both leptin and insulin markedly influence key cellular events that underlie hippocampal learning and memory including activity-dependent synaptic plasticity and the trafficking of glutamate receptors to and away from hippocampal synapses. The hippocampal formation is also a prime site for the neurodegenerative processes that occur during Alzheimer's disease, and impairments in either leptin or insulin function have been linked to central nervous system-driven diseases like Alzheimer's disease. Thus, the capacity of the metabolic hormones, leptin and insulin, to regulate hippocampal synaptic function has significant implications for normal brain function and also central nervous system-driven disease.

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