Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New role for insulin: Studies tie the hormone to brain's 'pleasure' center


Findings also shed light on food choices and obesity

Insulin, the hormone essential to all mammals for controlling blood sugar levels and a feeling of being full after eating, plays a much stronger role than previously known in regulating release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centers, new studies by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center show.

Image of a rodent brain cell, with insulin receptors (seen as many green dots) that when activated spur release of dopamine (In background in pink is neuron nucleus.)

Courtesy of Nature Communications

"We found that when there's more insulin in the brain, there will be more dopamine released, not less," says study senior investigator and NYU Langone neuroscientist Margaret Rice, PhD. Her team's new findings from laboratory and behavioral studies with rodents are set to appear in the journal Nature Communications online Oct. 27.

Rice says the experiments she and her colleagues conducted not only reaffirm that insulin helps trigger the reuptake of dopamine when insulin levels rise, but also are the first to show that the net effect is a rise in dopamine levels. The results may also be the first to demonstrate that insulin's role in the dopamine pathway may affect and explain food choices.

In one set of experiments, Rice and her colleagues recorded a 20 percent to 55 percent increase in dopamine released in the striatal region of the rodent brain (where dopamine's effects on the brain are felt and which governs the body's response to getting a reward). The rise occurred along the same timeframe as the rise in insulin activity needed to process any food sugars the mice and rats ate. And this occurred despite the reabsorption, or reuptake, of dopamine that in other regions of the brain tells an animal that its appetite is satisfied.

Rice and study co-principal investigator Kenneth Carr, PhD, also conducted separate experiments with rats in which they found that animals fed low-calorie diets had a 10-fold greater sensitivity to increasing insulin levels in the brain (meaning that it took only a tenth of a rise in insulin levels as seen in rats on a normal diet to spur dopamine release). By contrast, rats on high-calorie diets lost all striatal-brain insulin responsiveness. In addition, rats offered a choice between a drink reward that was paired with either an insulin antibody injection to block hormone signaling or a mock placebo injection always favored the drink-injection combination that led to intact insulin signaling (and more dopamine).

"Our work establishes what we believe is a new role for insulin as part of the brain's reward system and suggests that rodents, and presumably people, may choose to consume high-carb or low-fat meals that release more insulin - all to heighten dopamine release," says Rice, a professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at NYU Langone and a member of NYU Langone's Druckenmiller Neuroscience Institute.

Rice says this finding is important because chronically elevated insulin levels and lowered insulin sensitivity in the brain are closely tied to obesity and type II diabetes, both very prevalent in the United States.

Rice says the team plans further experiments on how insulin influences the mammalian brain's control over food motivation and reward pathways, and whether changes in insulin sensitivity brought about by obesity can be reversed or even prevented.

"If our future experiments prove successful," says Rice, "it could confirm our hypothesis that when people refer to an insulin-glucose rush, they may really be referring to a dopamine reward rush. And there are healthy ways to get that by making smart food choices."


Funding support for the research was provided by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, both members of the National Institutes of Health. Corresponding grant numbers are R01 DA033811, a multiple-principal investigator award; R01 DA03956; and R01 NS036362. Additional funding support came from a Brain and Behavior Research Institute NARSAD independent investigator award.

Besides Rice and Carr, other NYU Langone researchers involved in the study were lead study investigator Melissa Stouffer, PhD; Catherine Woods, BA; Jyoti Patel, PhD; Christian Lee, PhD; Paul Whitkovsky, PhD; Li Bao, PhD; Robert Machold, PhD; Kymry Jones, PhD; Soledad Cabeza de Vaca, PhD; and Maarten Reith, PhD.

Media Inquiries:

David March
Phone: 212-404-3528

Media Contact

David March


David March | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Institute Langone Medicine dopamine food choices hormone rise

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia
21.10.2016 | Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg

nachricht New potential cancer treatment using microwaves to target deep tumors
12.10.2016 | University of Texas at Arlington

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>