Hypothalamic mechanisms in cachexia

Aaron J. Grossberg, Jarrad M. Scarlett, Daniel L. Marks

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


The role of nutrition and balanced metabolism in normal growth, development, and health maintenance is well known. Patients affected with either acute or chronic diseases often show disorders of nutrient balance. In some cases, a devastating state of malnutrition known as cachexia arises, brought about by a synergistic combination of a dramatic decrease in appetite and an increase in metabolism of fat and lean body mass. Other common features that are not required for the diagnosis include decreases in voluntary movement, insulin resistance, and anhedonia. This combination is found in a number of disorders including cancer, cystic fibrosis, AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, renal failure, and Alzheimer's disease. The severity of cachexia in these illnesses is often the primary determining factor in both quality of life, and in eventual mortality. Indeed, body mass retention in AIDS patients has a stronger association with survival than any other current measure of the disease. This has led to intense investigation of cachexia and the proposal of numerous hypotheses regarding its etiology. Most authors suggest that cytokines released during inflammation and malignancy act on the central nervous system to alter the release and function of a number of neurotransmitters, thereby altering both appetite and metabolic rate. This review will discuss the salient features of cachexia in human diseases, and review the mechanisms whereby inflammation alters the function of key brain regions to produce stereotypical illness behavior. The paper represents an invited review by a symposium, award winner or keynote speaker at the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior [SSIB] Annual Meeting in Portland, July 2009.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)478-489
Number of pages12
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • Behavior
  • Cachexia
  • Cytokines
  • Feeding
  • Hypothalamus
  • Inflammation
  • Melanocortin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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