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Neuropeptides at the crossroad of fear and hunger: a special focus on neuropeptide Y


Survival in a natural environment forces an individual into constantly adapting purposive behavior. Specified interoceptive neurons monitor metabolic and physiological balance and activate dedicated brain circuits to satisfy essential needs, such as hunger, thirst, thermoregulation, fear, or anxiety. Neuropeptides are multifaceted, central components within such life-sustaining programs. For instance, nutritional depletion results in a drop in glucose levels, release of hormones, and activation of hypothalamic and brainstem neurons. These neurons, in turn, release several neuropeptides that increase food-seeking behavior and promote food intake. Similarly, internal and external threats activate neuronal pathways of avoidance and defensive behavior. Interestingly, specific nuclei of the hypothalamus and extended amygdala are activated by both hunger and fear. Here, we introduce the relevant neuropeptides and describe their function in feeding and emotional-affective behaviors. We further highlight specific pathways and microcircuits, where neuropeptides may interact to identify prevailing homeostatic needs and direct respective compensatory behaviors. A specific focus will be on neuropeptide Y, since it is known for its pivotal role in metabolic and emotional pathways. We hypothesize that the orexigenic and anorexigenic properties of specific neuropeptides are related to their ability to inhibit fear and anxiety.

Type Journal
ISBN 1749-6632 (Electronic) 0077-8923 (Linking)
Authors Comeras, L. B.; Herzog, H.; Tasan, R. O.
Responsible Garvan Author Prof Herbert Herzog
Publisher Name Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Published Date 2019-07-04
Published Volume 1455
Published Issue 1
Published Pages 59-80
Status Published in-print
DOI 10.1111/nyas.14179
URL link to publisher's version