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Interactions between the central nervous system and pancreatic islet secretions: a historical perspective

The endocrine pancreas is richly innervated with sympathetic and parasympathetic projections from the brain. In the mid-20th century, it was established that ?-adrenergic activation inhibits, whereas cholinergic stimulation promotes, insulin secretion; this demonstrated the importance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems in pancreatic endocrine function. It was later established that insulin injected peripherally could act within the brain, leading to the discovery of insulin and insulin receptors within the brain and the receptor-mediated transport of insulin into the central nervous system from endothelial cells. The insulin receptor within the central nervous system is widely distributed, reflecting insulin's diverse range of actions, including acting as an adiposity signal to reduce food intake and increase energy expenditure, regulation of systemic glucose responses, altering sympathetic activity, and involvement in cognitive function. As observed with central insulin administration, the pancreatic hormones glucagon, somatostatin, pancreatic polypeptide, and amylin can each also reduce food intake. Pancreatic and also gut hormones are released cephalically, in what is an important mechanism to prepare the body for a meal and prevent excessive postprandial hyperglycemia.

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