Leptin regulation of neuronal excitability and cognitive function

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Leptin, a hormone produced by adipocytes, provides signals to specific regions of the hypothalamus to control energy homeostasis. However, the past decade of research has not only revealed that leptin receptors are widely expressed in the CNS, but has also identified numerous additional functions for this hormone in the brain. In particular, there is evidence that leptin influences neuronal excitability via the activation as well as trafficking of specific potassium channels in several brain regions. Leptin-induced alterations in neuronal excitability have been implicated in the regulation of food intake, reward behaviour and anti-convulsant effects. A number of studies have also identified a role for leptin in cognitive processes that involve activation of leptin receptors in limbic structures, such as the hippocampus. Indeed, leptin influences hippocampal-dependent learning and memory, and more recently leptin has been shown to have anti-depressant properties. Characterisation of these novel actions of leptin is providing valuable insights into the role of this hormone in the regulation of diverse neuronal functions in health and disease.

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