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.

Award for therapy for muscle weakness

Adrian Krainer and Richard Finkel receive the K. J. Zülch Prize for their development and testing of a drug for spinal muscular atrophy

Improved diabetes in spite of obesity

Intervention in fat metabolism improves fatty liver disease and glucose metabolism of obese mice

Insulin protects against colorectal cancer

Signaling pathway strengthens the intestinal barrier

Brain hungers for dopamine

Neurotransmitter release regulates our eating behaviour

Wishful thinking is rewarded

The reward system in the brain affects our judgements

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Coordination of food intake, locomotion and sleep by the lateral hypothalamus

2017 Korotkova, Tatiana

Immunobiology Infection Biology Medicine Neurosciences

Coordination of food intake, locomotion and sleep is crucial for survival, its impairment is a symptom of multiple sleep and eating disorders. We found that optogenetic activation of GABA cells in the lateral hypothalamus leads to awakening from non-REM sleep and increases food intake. Further we characterized the neuronal circuit, which connects the prefrontal cortex and the lateral hypothalamus and utilizes gamma oscillations to organize function-selective firing of neurons and to promote food-seeking.


Genetic predisposition for obesity influences learning behaviour

2016 Tittgemeyer, Marc; Brüning, Jens


Variations in the fat mass and obesity-associated (FTO) gene are associated with obesity. The same variants of FTO affect dopamine-dependent midbrain responses and learning from negative outcomes in humans. They furthermore modulate the connectivity in a basic reward circuit of meso-striato-prefrontal regions and facilitate neural responses elicited by food cues. These findings provide evidence for FTO-specific differences in both brain structure and function in individuals, thereby contributing to a mechanistic understanding of why FTO is a predisposing factor for obesity.


Regulatory mechanisms of neuronal glucose uptake

2015 Jais, Alexander; Brüning, Jens C.

Medicine Neurosciences

This study demonstrates the complex regulatory mechanisms for the maintenance of physiological glucose transport and identifies vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) as critical regulator of glucose transport across the blood-brain barrier. These experiments reveal that transient, high-fat diet-elicited reduction of brain glucose uptake initiates a compensatory increase of VEGF-production and assign obesity-associated macrophage activation a homeostatic role to restore cerebral glucose metabolism, preserve cognitive function and limit neurodegeneration in obesity.


Metabolic disorders: Nutrition during pregnancy affects offspring

2014 Hausen, Anne Christine; Brüning, Jens C.

Genetics Medicine Neurosciences

Obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus and associated dieseases are on a constant rise and not only reduce quality of life but also are putting a burden on our society. Large efforts have been put into a better understanding of the homeostatic control mechanisms involved in regulation of body weight and energy homeostasis. It is known that maternal obesity, diabetes and hyperglycemia during pregnancy results in an increased risk for the offspring to develop obesity and diabetes later in life.  By performing studies in mice, scientists can gain insights into the underlying complex mechanisms. 


Genetic predisposition for overweight: Possible interactions of genome and environment

2013 Heß, Martin; Brüning, Jens C.

Genetics Neurosciences

The increase in the prevalence of obesity and the concomitant health problems are putting a burden on our modern society. Lifestyle and genetic predisposition define the individual susceptibility to gain weight. Through identifying the genetic alterations and the subsequent investigation of the affected genes/proteins – including studies in mice – scientists hope to gain insights into the complex interaction of our genome and environment to finally identify the mechanisms that may lead e.g. to weight gain.

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