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The Lighter Side Of BDNF

Emily E. Noble, Charles J. Billington, Catherine M. Kotz, ChuanFeng Wang

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Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) mediates energy metabolism and feeding behavior. As a neurotrophin, BDNF promotes neuronal differentiation, survival during early development, adult neurogenesis, and neural plasticity; thus, there is the potential that BDNF could modify circuits important to eating behavior and energy expenditure. The possibility that “faulty” circuits could be remodeled by BDNF is an exciting concept for new therapies for obesity and eating disorders. In the hypothalamus, BDNF and its receptor, tropomyosin-related kinase B (TrkB), are extensively expressed in areas associated with feeding and metabolism. Hypothalamic BDNF and TrkB appear to inhibit food intake and increase energy expenditure, leading to negative energy balance. In the hippocampus, the involvement of BDNF in neural plasticity and neurogenesis is important to learning and memory, but less is known about how BDNF participates in energy homeostasis. We review current research about BDNF in specific brain locations related to energy balance, environmental, and behavioral influences on BDNF expression and the possibility that BDNF may influence energy homeostasis via its role in neurogenesis and neural plasticity.