The caudal brainstem nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS) is the initial central nervous system (CNS) terminus for a variety of gastrointestinal mechanical, nutrient chemical and gut peptide signals that limit the amount of food consumed during a meal. It receives neuroanatomical projections from gut vagal and non-vagal visceral afferents that mediate the CNS representation of these meal-stimulated gut feedback signals, and is reciprocally connected to a range of hypothalamic and limbic system sites that play significant roles in the neural processing of meal-related stimuli and in determining food consumption. Neurons in the NTS also contains elements of leptinergic and melanocortinergic signalling systems, presenting the possibility that the brainstem actions of these neuropeptides affect both the NTS processing of meal-stimulated gut afferent neural activity and its behavioural potency. Taken together, these features suggest that the NTS is ideally situated to integrate central and peripheral signals that determine meal size. This manuscript will review recent support from molecular genetic, neurophysiological and immunocytochemical studies that begin to identify and characterize the types of integrative functions performed within the NTS, and highlight the extent to which they are consistent with a causal role for NTS integration of peripheral gut and central neuropeptide signals important in the control of food intake.
One contribution of 16 to a Theme Issue ‘Appetite’.
- © 2006 The Royal Society