The selfish brain: Stress and eating behavior

Achim Peters*, Britta Kubera, Christian Hubold, Dirk Langemann

*Corresponding author for this work
30 Citations (Scopus)


The brain occupies a special hierarchical position in human energy metabolism. If cerebral homeostasis is threatened, the brain behaves in a "selfish" manner by competing for energy resources with the body. Here we present a logistic approach, which is based on the principles of supply and demand known from economics. In this "cerebral supply chain" model, the brain constitutes the final consumer. In order to illustrate the operating mode of the cerebral supply chain, we take experimental data which allow assessing the supply, demand and need of the brain under conditions of psychosocial stress. The experimental results show that the brain under conditions of psychosocial stress actively demands energy from the body, in order to cover its increased energy needs. The data demonstrate that the stressed brain uses a mechanism referred to as "cerebral insulin suppression" to limit glucose fluxes into peripheral tissue (muscle, fat) and to enhance cerebral glucose supply. Furthermore psychosocial stress elicits a marked increase in eating behavior in the post-stress phase. Subjects ingested more carbohydrates without any preference for sweet ingredients. These experimentally observed changes of cerebral demand, supply and need are integrated into a logistic framework describing the supply chain of the selfish brain.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue numberMAY
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 01.12.2011

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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