The afferent signals that evoke changes in energy intake with regard to body weight regulation are presumed to arise partly from body stores, with the most likely candidate being adipose tissue depots. However, clinical investigation of the neuronal circuitry involved in the central nervous system's processing of such satiety signals remains largely unexplored. Using percutaneously placed catheters in either the right or left internal jugular veins, we were able to quantify the release of central nervous system monoamine and indoleamine neurotransmitters in 64 weight-stable male subjects with varying degrees of adiposity. Veno-arterial plasma concentration differences and internal jugular blood or plasma flow were used, according to the Fick Principle, to quantify the amount of neurotransmitter stemming from the brain. By combining this technique with a noradrenaline and adrenaline isotope dilution method for examining neuronal transmitter release, we were able to examine the association between central nervous system neurotransmitters and efferent sympathetic nervous outflow and adrenomedullary function in human obesity. We found that brain 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin) turnover is chronically elevated in proportion to adiposity and is increased postprandially to a similar degree in lean and obese individuals. There was no difference in the degree of sympathetic nervous activity or rate of adrenaline secretion in the subjects examined. It therefore seems that in human obesity, in the face of a chronic elevation in peripheral satiety signals, brain serotonergic processes are switched on accordingly, but the subsequent physiological response involving a reduction in food intake, increased thermogenesis and sympathetic activity is in some way impeded.

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