Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research

Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research

The human brain analyses nutrient-related and hormonal signals of the body periphery and controls by hunger and saturation induction the energy homeostasis. This central nervous control is complex and until now not fully understood. Research at the Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research (formerly: Max Planck Institute for Neurological Research) is dedicated to deciphering these most intricate neuro-circuits. The researchers use multimodal and molecular imaging to describe intact but also abnormal metabolic regulation. Once neuronal signaling pathways of the metabolism are completely understood both in healthy people and patients, new molecular therapies for diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity may be developed in the long run.


Gleueler Str. 50
50931 Köln
Phone: +49 221 4726-0
Fax: +49 221 4726-298

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS on Ageing

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department Neuronal Control of Metabolism

Electron micrograph of two mitochondria.

Adapting sugar metabolism starts in the brain


Research highlights 2023

December 19, 2023

Many publications by Max Planck scientists in 2023 were of great social relevance or met with a great media response. We have selected 12 articles to present you with an overview of some noteworthy research of the year

Balloons lift a scale.

Liraglutide benefits brain activity in people with obesity

The picture is divided into two halves and shows a colourful staining of cells under the microscope. On the right, the pink staining is much stronger.

The brain releases the hormone corticosterone after short fasting that boosts autophagy

Tape measure on bathroom scales on a white tiled background with a bath robe and copy space.

Possible target for drugs to combat the yo-yo effect

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Feel hungry, grab a pudding, enjoy it, and have another. Many different electrical and chemical signals ensure that the body and the brain cooperate in the area of nutrition. Marc Tittgemeyer and his team at the Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research in Cologne are studying the implications of such coordination.

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Detailed Characterization of neurons of the murine brain 

2023 Steuernagel, L.;  Brüning, Jens C.

Genetics Medicine Neurosciences

Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) allows the analysis of gene expression patterns in individual cells, enabling the characterisation of cell types based on their molecular identity. This allows to precisely describe the heterogeneity of different neurons in the brain in an unbiased manner. We built a comprehensive atlas of cell types of the hypothalamus, a brain region which plays a central role in the regulation of metabolism, by integrating published and novel data sets.


The role of metabolic mediators in the control of motivation

2022 Tittgemeyer, Marc

Immunobiology Infection Biology Medicine Neurosciences

Through learning processes, sensory signals gain a motivational force and enable the brain to direct actions and adapt our behaviour to maintain physiological needs. To that end, sensory computations in the brain must be regulated by the body's momentary metabolic state, taking into account external sensory cues. We investigate physiological pathways by which bodily metabolic signals are communicated through the brain to interact with sensory perception and learning processes to guide motivated behaviour.


Heterogeneity of satiety-promoting neurons in the brain  

2021 Biglari, Nasim.; Brüning, Jens C.

Medicine Neurosciences

The hypothalamus is an area in the brain that regulates metabolism. It consists of neuronal groups, one of which is the Pro-opiomelanocortin- expressing group. POMC neurons drive satiety and use of stored energy in the body. Studying this neuronal group has led us to find different subgroups within a population that was thought to be uniform. We are studying in detail how they influence metabolism.


Eating with all senses

2020 Steculorum, Sophie

Behavioural Biology Medicine Neurosciences

Our understanding of how our brain governs food intake has recently been revolutionized by the discovery that key hunger neurons are switched off within a few seconds upon detection of food cues that signal to the brain food vicinity, like sight or smell. Following on these seminal discoveries and building upon the challenge of better characterizing the critical mechanism by which our brain orchestrates feeding behavior, our group is keen on elucidating the influence of our senses on brain circuits governing appetite and metabolism. 


The role of neurotransmitters in mediating hunger and satiety

2019 Fenselau, Henning

Medicine Neurosciences

The hypothalamus works as a key regulatory center of food intake. Since many different neurons are involved in this regulation, it has so far been virtually impossible to understand the underlying neural circuits of this brain area and their connections. Using cell-type-specific genetic, electrophysiological and optical approaches, we identified previously unknown „satiety neurons“ and uncovered which neurotransmitter mediates the communication of hunger neurons.

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