The incidence of obesity is increasing at an alarming rate and this worldwide epidemic represents an ominous predictor of increases in diseases such as type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Epidemiological and animals studies suggest that alteration of the metabolic and hormonal environment during critical periods of development is associated with increased risks for obesity, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes in later life. There is general recognition that the developing brain is more susceptible to environmental insults than the adult brain. In particular, there is growing appreciation that developmental programming of neuroendocrine systems by the perinatal environment represents a possible cause for these diseases. This lecture will summarize the major stages of hypothalamic development and will discuss potential periods of vulnerability for the development of hypothalamic neurons involved in feeding regulation. It will also provide an overview of recent evidence concerning the action of perinatal hormones (including leptin and ghrelin) in programming the development and organization of hypothalamic circuits that regulate feeding behavior and energy balance.
Declaration of interest: There is no conflict of interest that could be perceived as prejudicing the impartiality of the research reported.
Funding: Declaration of Funding: This work was supported by the National Institute of Health (Grant DK84142), the Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale (to SGB), the EU FP7 integrated project (grant agreement no 266408, Full4Health), and the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (Grant ANR-08-JCJC-0055-01).