Obesity and its related disorders are among the most pervasive diseases in contemporary societies, and there is an urgent need for new therapies and preventive approaches. Given (i) our poor social capacity to correct unhealthy habits, and (ii) our evolutionarily genetic predisposition to store excess energy as fat, the current environment of caloric surplus makes the treatment of obesity extremely difficult. During the last few decades, an increasing number of methodological approaches have increased our knowledge of the neuroanatomical basis of the control of energy balance. Compelling evidence underlines the role of the hypothalamus as a homeostatic integrator of metabolic information and its ability to adjust energy balance. A greater understanding of the neural basis of the hypothalamic regulation of energy balance might indeed pave the way for new therapeutic targets. In this regard, it has been shown that several important peripheral signals, such as leptin, thyroid hormones, oestrogens and bone morphogenetic protein 8B, converge on common energy sensors, such as AMP-activated protein kinase to modulate sympathetic tone on brown adipose tissue. This knowledge may open new ways to counteract the chronic imbalance underlying obesity. Here, we review the current state of the art on the role of hypothalamus in the regulation of energy balance with particular focus on thermogenesis.

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