New paper: Current findings on the role of oxytocin in the regulation of food intake

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.


Seminar Series 16th March 2017

Today’s seminar was taken by Ifeoma Egbunwe and Evie Bradbury, two MSc students on the Brain Imaging and Cognitive Neuroscience MSc programme. They have been working with Dr Emily Collins and Dr Maartje Spetter for the last few months, and presented their plans for their MSc theses, which will be supervised by Dr Maartje Spetter and Prof Suzanne Higgs.


Evie Bradbury presented her plans and predictions for her study entitled “Effect of 5-HT2C Receptor Against Meta-chlorophenylpiperazine (mCPP) on Snack Food Consumption, Inhibitory Control and BOLD responses”.


Ifeoma Egbunwe then presented her plans and predictions for her study, entitled “The effect of Meta-Chlorophenylpiperazine (mCCP) on Food Attention Memory, Emotional Related Memory and Working Memory Performance.




New Paper: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and disordered eating behaviour: A systematic review and a framework for future research

Doctoral researcher Panagiota Kaisari and Prof Suzanne Higgs have published a paper in Clinical Psychology Review, entitled “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and disordered eating behaviour: A systematic review and a framework for future research”.  The full paper can be found here.


Preliminary findings suggest that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may be associated with disordered eating behaviour, but whether there is sufficient evidence to suggest an association between ADHD and specific types of disordered eating behaviour is unclear. Furthermore, it is uncertain whether specific features associated with ADHD are differentially associated with disordered eating behaviour. A systematic review of seventy-five studies was conducted to evaluate the potential association between ADHD symptomatology and disordered eating behaviour and to provide an estimate of the strength of evidence for any association. Overall, a moderate strength of evidence exists for a positive association between ADHD and disordered eating and with specific types of disordered-eating behaviour, in particular, overeating behaviour. There is consistent evidence that impulsivity symptoms of ADHD are positively associated with overeating and bulimia nervosa and more limited evidence for an association between hyperactivity symptoms and restrictive eating in males but not females. Further research is required to assess the potential direction of the relationship between ADHD and disordered eating, the underlying mechanisms and the role of specific ADHD symptoms in the development and/or maintenance of disordered eating behaviour. We propose a framework that could be used to guide the design of future studies.

Ingestive Behaviour Group Seminar


Last week’s seminar was led by Panagiota Kaisari, a Doctoral Researcher in the lab. Her talk was entitled Attention Deficit Hyperativity Disorder (ADHD) and Disordered Eating.


Accumulating evidence suggests a strong link between Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Eating Disorders (EDs) and/or Disordered Eating (DE) behaviours. However, still remains unclear whether ADHD relates to specific types of EDs and DE behaviours, such as binge eating and restrictive eating behaviours, and what are the mechanisms underlying these associations. What is more, the role of core symptoms of ADHD in the development of EDs and DE behaviours has been rarely investigated. In this presentation, I will provide a background of the existing research in the field highlighting our main findings from a systematic review in ADHD & Disordered Eating Behaviour, which involved the systematic evaluation of 72 studies and will present findings from two research studies that tried to answer some of the outstanding questions in the field. In accordance with the National Institute of Mental Health Research Domain Criteria Initiative (RDoC), which encourages research on dimensions of observable behaviour rather than a categorical, symptom-based approach to the study of mental health, we studied ADHD and DE using a dimensional approach. Clinical implications of our findings will be discussed, along with suggestions for future research.

New paper: The effect of real-time vibrotactile feedback delivered through an augmented fork on eating rate, satiation, and food intake

Prof. Suzanne Higgs has co-authored a new paper, published in the latest issue of Appetite. The paper is entitled “The effect of real-time vibrotactile feedback delivered through an augmented fork on eating rate, satiation, and food intake” .

The full paper can be accessed here.


Eating rate is a basic determinant of appetite regulation, as people who eat more slowly feel sated earlier and eat less. Without assistance, eating rate is difficult to modify due to its automatic nature. In the current study, participants used an augmented fork that aimed to decelerate their rate of eating. A total of 114 participants were randomly assigned to the Feedback Condition (FC), in which they received vibrotactile feedback from their fork when eating too fast (i.e., taking more than one bite per 10 s), or a Non-Feedback Condition (NFC). Participants in the FC took fewer bites per minute than did those in the NFC. Participants in the FC also had a higher success ratio, indicating that they had significantly more bites outside the designated time interval of 10 s than did participants in the NFC. A slower eating rate, however, did not lead to a significant reduction in the amount of food consumed or level of satiation. These findings indicate that real-time vibrotactile feedback delivered through an augmented fork is capable of reducing eating rate, but there is no evidence from this study that this reduction in eating rate is translated into an increase in satiation or reduction in food consumption. Overall, this study shows that real-time vibrotactile feedback may be a viable tool in interventions that aim to reduce eating rate. The long-term effectiveness of this form of feedback on satiation and food consumption, however, awaits further investigation.

Ingestive Behaviour Group Seminar

In February, our Ingestive Behaviour Group Seminar was given by Joke Sanders (University of Ghent) and Alice Renaud (AgroParisTech) who have been visiting the lab as research interns. They spoke about the work they have conducted during their visit, and the abstracts can be found below.

Investigation of eating behaviour in individuals with symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) compared to healthy controls
Alice Renaud

Evidence suggests that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may be associated with eating disorders (EDs) and disordered eating behaviours, but it remains unclear which types of EDs and disordered eating behaviours may be more common in individuals with ADHD. In the present study, using a between-subjects design we investigated whether individuals with high ADHD symptoms differ to those with very low symptoms of ADHD (controls) in eating behaviour as assessed in a laboratory eating session, and whether these differences may be explained by differences in processing of food cues and interoception awareness. To assess eating behaviour, participants were offered an ad libitum lunch meal (pasta with tomato sauce) followed by a highly palatable food (cookies).  Food cue processing was assessed via a behavioural task and interoception awareness via the heartbeat task. Preliminary analysis showed that although the two groups did not differ in the consumption of the pasta meal, individuals scoring high in ADHD symptoms consumed significantly more cookies than controls, suggesting that ADHD symptoms may predispose individuals in overeating behaviour, especially of highly palatable food.


The effect of modelling and serving-size labels on food intake.
Joke Sanders

A persons’ food intake is influenced by a number of factors. Previous research has shown that in social situations, people tend to adjust their food intake directly to that of their eating companion. This is called the modelling effect and it means that people tend to eat more when in the presence of a person who eats a lot than when in the presence of a person that eats only a little. Another external factor is the serving-size label on the package of the food. Studies have shown that food intake was lower when the serving-size label indicated the portion of food contained more servings (e.g. 4 servings) compared to when the label indicated it contained only a few servings (e.g. 2 servings). The current study wants to examine whether modelling or the serving-size label will have a more pronounced effect on a persons’ food intake. An experimental design with a two (remote confederate’s intake: small, large) by two (serving-size label: small, large) between-participants design is used.

Ingestive Behaviour Group Seminar – Jinyu Liu


Today’s  Ingestive Behaviour Group Seminar was given by Jinyu Liu, a final year Doctoral Researcher in the lab. Her talk was entitled “Norm effects on eating behaviour: The role of social identity”.

This was the last seminar talk of the term, but they will begin again in the new year. If you would like to be kept up to date with when next term’s seminars will be and what topics will be covered, please join our mailing list by e-mailing Emily Collins.

Welcome to Dr Maartje Spetter


We’re thrilled to welcome Dr Maartje Spetter to our research team.

Maartje is a nutritional neuroscientist. Her research is mostly focused on understanding how the human brain represents eating behaviour, as well as the relationship between the brain and obesity. In particular, Maartje is interested in the neural circuits of taste, smell, and flavour preferences, and the interaction between metabolic signals, neural responses, and food intake.

Maartje will be working on a BBSRC grant entitled “Interactions between metabolic, cognitive and reward processes in appetite”.