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Journal of Aging Research
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 384017, 21 pages
Review Article

Insulin in Central Nervous System: More than Just a Peripheral Hormone

1CNC, Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology, University of Coimbra, 3004-517 Coimbra, Portugal
2Institute of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Coimbra, 3000-354 Coimbra, Portugal
3Institute of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Coimbra, 3000-354 Coimbra, Portugal

Received 4 April 2011; Revised 12 October 2011; Accepted 23 November 2011

Academic Editor: Barbara Shukitt-Hale

Copyright © 2012 Ana I. Duarte et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Insulin signaling in central nervous system (CNS) has emerged as a novel field of research since decreased brain insulin levels and/or signaling were associated to impaired learning, memory, and age-related neurodegenerative diseases. Thus, besides its well-known role in longevity, insulin may constitute a promising therapy against diabetes- and age-related neurodegenerative disorders. More interestingly, insulin has been also faced as the potential missing link between diabetes and aging in CNS, with Alzheimer's disease (AD) considered as the “brain-type diabetes.” In fact, brain insulin has been shown to regulate both peripheral and central glucose metabolism, neurotransmission, learning, and memory and to be neuroprotective. And a future challenge will be to unravel the complex interactions between aging and diabetes, which, we believe, will allow the development of efficient preventive and therapeutic strategies to overcome age-related diseases and to prolong human “healthy” longevity. Herewith, we aim to integrate the metabolic, neuromodulatory, and neuroprotective roles of insulin in two age-related pathologies: diabetes and AD, both in terms of intracellular signaling and potential therapeutic approach.