Feeding provides substrate for energy metabolism, which is vital to the survival of every living animal and therefore is subject to intense regulation by brain homeostatic and hedonic systems. Over the last decade, our understanding of the circuits and molecules involved in this process has changed dramatically, in large part due to the availability of animal models with genetic lesions. In this review, we examine the role played in homeostatic regulation of feeding by systemic mediators such as leptin and ghrelin, which act on brain systems utilizing neuropeptide Y, agouti-related peptide, melanocortins, orexins, and melanin concentrating hormone, among other mediators. We also examine the mechanisms for taste and reward systems that provide food with its intrinsically reinforcing properties and explore the links between the homeostatic and hedonic systems that ensure intake of adequate nutrition.
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