One of the ‘side effects’ of our modern lifestyle is a range of metabolic diseases: the incidence of obesity, type 2 diabetes and associated cardiovascular diseases has grown to pandemic proportions. This increase, which shows no sign of reversing course, has occurred despite education and new treatment options, and is largely due to a lack of knowledge about the precise pathology and etiology of metabolic disorders. Accumulating evidence suggests that the communication pathways linking the brain, gut and adipose tissue might be promising intervention points for metabolic disorders. To maintain energy homeostasis, the brain must tightly monitor the peripheral energy state. This monitoring is also extremely important for the brain’s survival, because the brain does not store energy but depends solely on a continuous supply of nutrients from the general circulation. Two major groups of metabolic inputs inform the brain about the peripheral energy state: short-term signals produced by the gut system and long-term signals produced by adipose tissue. After central integration of these inputs, the brain generates neuronal and hormonal outputs to balance energy intake with expenditure.
Miscommunication between the gut, brain and adipose tissue, or the degradation of input signals once inside the brain, lead to the brain misunderstanding the peripheral energy state. Under certain circumstances, the brain responds to this miscommunication by increasing energy intake and production, eventually causing metabolic disorders. This poster article overviews current knowledge about communication pathways between the brain, gut and adipose tissue, and discusses potential research directions that might lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying metabolic disorders.