Sunday, March 03, 2013

Discovery Lecture explores brain’s sensitivity to insulin | VUMC Reporter | Vanderbilt University

Discovery Lecture explores brain’s sensitivity to insulin | VUMC Reporter | Vanderbilt University

Diabetes has a big impact on the brain.

Patients with diabetes have more cognitive dysfunction, are at increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, and have higher rates of depression and eating disorders.

What’s going on is the brain is actually a metabolic organ, exquisitely sensitive to insulin, internationally known diabetes researcher C. Ronald Kahn, M.D., said during last week’s Flexner Discovery Lecture/Irwin Eskind Lecture in Biomedical Science at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“Changing insulin signaling in the brain changes brain function in terms of things the brain normally does, which is mood and behavior activity,” said Kahn, the Mary K. Iaccoca Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Through studies of genetically manipulated “knock-out” mice lacking brain receptors for insulin, Kahn and his colleagues have shown that insulin signaling affects the function of neurotransmitters including dopamine and serotonin, which in turn regulate mood and behavior.

These mice “show increased anxiety and signs of depression, which improve through treatment by antidepressant drugs,” he said.

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