Dr Maartje Spetter, a post-doctoral researcher in the lab, has recently published a new paper in Physiology & Behavior. The paper is titled “Current findings on the role of oxytocin in the regulation of food intake” and can be found here.
In the face of the alarming prevalence of obesity and its associated metabolic impairments, it is of high basic and clinical interest to reach a complete understanding of the central nervous pathways that establish metabolic control. In recent years, the hypothalamic neuropeptide oxytocin, which is primarily known for its involvement in psychosocial processes and reproductive behavior, has received increasing attention as a modulator of metabolic function. Oxytocin administration to the brain of normal-weight animals, but also animals with diet-induced or genetically engineered obesity reduces food intake and body weight, and can also increase energy expenditure. Up to now, only a handful of studies in humans have investigated oxytocin’s contribution to the regulation of eating behavior. Relying on the intranasal pathway of oxytocin administration, which is a non-invasive strategy to target central nervous oxytocin receptors, these experiments have yielded some promising first results. In normal-weight and obese individuals, intranasal oxytocin acutely limits meal intake and the consumption of palatable snacks. It is still unclear to which extent – or if at all – such metabolic effects of oxytocin in humans are conveyed or modulated by oxytocin’s impact on cognitive processes, in particular on psychosocial function. We shortly summarize the current literature on oxytocin’s involvement in food intake and metabolic control, ponder potential links to social and cognitive processes, and address future perspectives as well as limitations of oxytocin administration in experimental and clinical contexts.