In the brain, insulin acts as a growth factor, regulates energy homeostasis, and is involved in learning and memory acquisition. Many central nervous system (CNS) diseases are characterized by deficits in insulin signaling. Pre-clinical studies have shown that intranasal insulin is neuroprotective in models of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and traumatic brain injury. Clinical trials have also shown that intranasal insulin elicits beneficial cognitive effects in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. It is known that insulin can be detected in the CNS within minutes following intranasal administration. Despite these advances, the anatomical pathways that insulin utilizes to reach the CNS and the cellular CNS targets after intranasal administration are not fully understood. Here, we intranasally administered fluorescently labeled insulin and imaged its localization within the brain and trigeminal nerves. Our data indicates that intranasal insulin can reach cellular CNS targets along extracellular components of the trigeminal nerve. Upon CNS entry, we found insulin significantly increased levels of an activated form of the insulin receptor. These findings suggest that the intranasal route of administration is able to effectively deliver insulin to CNS targets in a biologically active form.
ASJC Scopus subject areas