Liya Kerem, MDFellow, Pediatric Endocrine UnitMassachusetts General Hospital for ChildrenHarvard Medical School

Oxytocin Reduces Activation of Brain Areas Linked to Stimulation by High Calorie Food Images Interview with:

Liya Kerem, MDFellow, Pediatric Endocrine UnitMassachusetts General Hospital for ChildrenHarvard Medical School

Dr. Kerem

Liya Kerem, MD
Fellow, Pediatric Endocrine Unit
Massachusetts General Hospital for Children
Harvard Medical School What is the background for this study?  

Response: The hypothalamic neurohormone Oxytocin (OXT), shown to decrease food intake in animals and humans, is a promising novel treatment for obesity. We previously showed that in men with overweight/obesity, intranasal (IN)OXT reduced the fMRI activation in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), the origin of the mesolimbic dopaminergic reward system, in response to high-calorie food vs non-food visual stimuli.

Here, we employed fMRI functional connectivity analysis, which better characterizes the exchange in information between neural systems in a context-dependent manner. We hypothesized that Oxytocin would reduce the functional connectivity of the VTA with food motivation brain areas in response to high-calorie foods. What are the main findings?

Response: In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study of 24 IU IN Oxytocin, 10 individuals with overweight/obesity received IN oxytocin. Sixty min later, fMRI was performed.

Following OXT administration, compared to placebo, participants showed significant attenuated functional connectivity between the VTA and key brain areas involved in the cognitive, sensory and emotional processing of visual food cues. This effect was seen only in response to the high-calorie food images. What should readers take away from your report? 

Response: We have shown in overweight/obese men that Oxytocin attenuates the functional connectivity between the VTA and brain regions associated with the cognitive, sensory and emotional processing of food images. This is particularly relevant to obese individuals, since previous studies have shown greater activation to palatable food images in this population. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: This was a small pilot study with a single dose of oxytocin. Additional studies are required to understand the effects of prolonged administration of oxytocin in both men and women.

Disclosures: Dr. Lawson was previously a consultant for Oxytocin Therapeutics. Dr. Lawson’s interests were reviewed and are managed by Massachusetts General Hospital and Partners HealthCare in accordance with their conflict of interest policies.


ENDO 2019 abstract:

Oxytocin Significantly Attenuates the Functional Connectivity between Food Motivation Brain Areas in Overweight and Obese Men Exposed to High Caloric Food Images

Liya Kerem, MD, MSc1, Franziska Plessow, PhD2, Laura Holsen, PhD3, Nouchine Hadjikhani, MD, PhD4, Elizabeth A. Lawson, MD, MMSc5.

[wysija_form id=”3″]

Mar 27, 2019 @ 8:01 pm


The information on is provided for educational purposes only, and is in no way intended to diagnose, cure, or treat any medical or other condition. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health and ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. In addition to all other limitations and disclaimers in this agreement, service provider and its third party providers disclaim any liability or loss in connection with the content provided on this website.