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Aimilia Eirini Papathanasiou, Eric Nolen-Doerr, Olivia M Farr and Christos S Mantzoros

The discovery of leptin, an adipocyte-secreted hormone, set the stage for unraveling the mechanisms dictating energy homeostasis, revealing adipose tissue as an endocrine system that regulates appetite and body weight. Fluctuating leptin levels provide molecular signals to the brain regarding available energy reserves modulating energy homeostasis and neuroendocrine response in states of leptin deficiency and to a lesser extent in hyperleptinemic states. While leptin replacement therapy fails to provide substantial benefit in common obesity, it is an effective treatment for congenital leptin deficiency and states of acquired leptin deficiency such as lipodystrophy. Current evidence suggests that regulation of eating behavior in humans is not limited to homeostatic mechanisms and that the reward, attention, memory and emotion systems are involved, participating in a complex central nervous system network. It is critical to study these systems for the treatment of typical obesity. Although progress has been made, further studies are required to unravel the physiology, pathophysiology and neurobehavioral mechanisms underlying potential treatments for weight-related problems in humans.