The influence of oxytocin on eating behaviour in BN and BED

Posted 12/05/2017

What is the purpose of the research?

There is a long-standing evidence base demonstrating that oxytocin administration inhibits appetite in animals. More recently, however, research has gone on to demonstrate that oxytocin may specifically reduce hedonic eating (eating for pleasure rather than to satiate hunger) in healthy men, and may reduce total food consumption in individuals with bulimia nervosa.

The current study aims to test whether or not a single dose of oxytocin affects food preferences in healthy adult females and adult females with either bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder. Additionally, we will examine the neural mechanism of action using fMRI scans of the brain.

Who can take part?

Right-handed adult females who either:

A) Have no history of an eating disorder


B) Meet the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder

All participants must:

  • Be fluent in English
  • Not suffer from any neurological or cognitive impairment
  • Not have a prior history of drug or alcohol abuse
  • Not be pregnant
  • Not currently be taking hormonal medication (including the contraceptive pill)

What does the study involve?

Please note: participation in this study requires the answer to a survey question about your current weight and a measurement of your current weight to help confirm eligibility. The survey also includes non-compulsory questions about your lowest ever and highest ever BMI.

If participants decide to take part, a member of the research team will be in touch to conduct a short phone screening. If participants meet basic eligibility criteria, participants will then be invited to come into the lab a total of three times.

On the first visit, more extensive screening will take place in order to ensure that it is safe and appropriate for participants to take part. If so, the next two sessions will be scheduled.

During each of the subsequent two sessions, participants will receive an intranasal spray of either the oxytocin or placebo solution (a different solution on each occasion).

Following administration of the allocated solution, participants will partake in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan while either water or chocolate milk flavours are delivered to the participant.

After a top-up dose of the nasal spray, participants will complete several computerised tasks and then perform a "taste test", during which participants will rate the favourability of several different types of foods.

Participants will be reimbursed £50 for their time.

How can you take part?

If you are interested in taking part, or would like more information without obligation to take part, you can contact the research team by email at: