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Neurology Research International
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 639280, 5 pages
Review Article

Autonomic Nervous System in the Control of Energy Balance and Body Weight: Personal Contributions

1Department of Experimental Medicine, Section of Human Physiology and Clinical Dietetic Service, Second University of Naples, Via Costantinopoli 16, 80138 Naples, Italy
2Faculty of Medicine, University of Salerno, Salerno, Italy
3Faculty of Motor Sciences, University of Naples “Parthenope,” Naples, Italy

Received 22 January 2013; Revised 12 March 2013; Accepted 24 March 2013

Academic Editor: Mamede de Carvalho

Copyright © 2013 G. Messina 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.


The prevalence of obesity is increasing in the industrialized world, so that the World Health Organization considers obesity as a “pandemia” in rich populations. The autonomic nervous system plays a crucial role in the control of energy balance and body weight. This review summarizes our own data and perspectives, emphasizing the influence exerted by autonomic nervous system on energy expenditure and food intake, which are able to determine the body weight. Activation of the sympathetic discharge causes an increase in energy expenditure and a decrease in food intake, while reduction of food intake and body weight loss determines a reduction of the sympathetic activity. On the other hand, pathophysiological mechanisms of the obesity involve alterations of the sympathetic nervous system in accordance with the “Mona Lisa Hypothesis,” an acronym for “most obesities known are low in sympathetic activity.” Furthermore, the parasympathetic influences on the energy expenditure are analyzed in this review, showing that an increase in parasympathetic activity can induce a paradoxical enhancement of energy consumption.