The Anorexigenic Neural Pathways of Oxytocin and Their Clinical Implication

Yuko Maejima, Shoko Yokota, Katsuhiko Nishimori, Kenju Shimomura

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    34 Citations (Scopus)


    Oxytocin was discovered in 1906 as a peptide that promotes delivery and milk ejection; however, its additional physiological functions were determined 100 years later. Many recent articles have reported newly discovered effects of oxytocin on social communication, bonding, reward-related behavior, adipose tissue, and muscle and food intake regulation. Because oxytocin neurons project to various regions in the brain that contribute to both feeding reward (hedonic feeding) and the regulation of energy balance (homeostatic feeding), the mechanisms of oxytocin on food intake regulation are complicated and largely unknown. Oxytocin neurons in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) receive neural projections from the arcuate nucleus (ARC), which is an important center for feeding regulation. On the other hand, these neurons in the PVN and supraoptic nucleus project to the ARC. PVN oxytocin neurons also project to the brain stem and the reward-related limbic system. In addition to this, oxytocin induces lipolysis and decreases fat mass. However, these effects in feeding and adipose tissue are known to be dependent on body weight (BW). Oxytocin treatment is more effective in food intake reguation and fat mass decline for individuals with leptin resistance and higher BW, but is known to be less effective in individuals with normal BW. In this review, we present in detail the recent findings on the physiological role of oxytocin in feeding regulation and the anorexigenic neural pathway of oxytocin neurons, as well as the advantage of oxytocin usage for anti-obesity treatment.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)91-104
    Number of pages14
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jul 1


    • Brain stem
    • Clinical implications
    • Hypothalamus
    • Neurons
    • Obesity
    • Oxytocin

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
    • Endocrinology
    • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
    • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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