• Investigating resting brain perfusion abnormalities and disease target-engagement by intranasal oxytocin in women with bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder and healthy controls

      Martins, Daniel; Leslie, Monica; Rodan, Sarah; Zelaya, Fernando; Treasure, Janet; Paloyelis, Yannis; King's College London; University College London
      Advances in the treatment of bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder (BN/BED) have been marred by our limited understanding of the underpinning neurobiology. Here we measured regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) to map resting perfusion abnormalities in women with BN/BED compared to healthy controls and investigate if intranasal oxytocin (OT), proposed as a potential treatment, can restore perfusion in disorder-related brain circuits. Twenty-four women with BN/BED and 23 healthy women participated in a randomised, double-blind, crossover, placebo-controlled study. We used arterial spin labelling MRI to measure rCBF and the effects of an acute dose of intranasal OT (40IU) or placebo over 18-26 minutes post-dosing, as we have previously shown robust OT-induced changes in resting rCBF in men in a similar time-window (15-36 min post-dosing). We tested for effects of treatment, diagnosis and their interaction on extracted rCBF values in anatomical regions-of-interest previously implicated in BN/BED by other neuroimaging modalities, and conducted exploratory whole-brain analyses to investigate previously unidentified brain regions. We demonstrated that women with BN/BED presented increased resting rCBF in the medial prefrontal and orbitofrontal cortices, anterior cingulate gyrus, posterior insula and middle/inferior temporal gyri bilaterally. Hyperperfusion in these areas specifically correlated with eating symptoms severity in patients. Our data did not support a normalizing effect of intranasal OT on perfusion abnormalities in these patients, at least for the specific dose (40 IU) and post-dosing interval (18-26 minutes) examined. Our findings enhance our understanding of resting brain abnormalities in BN/BED and identify resting rCBF as a non-invasive potential biomarker for disease-related changes and treatment monitoring. They also highlight the need for a comprehensive investigation of intranasal OT pharmacodynamics in women before we can fully ascertain its therapeutic value in disorders affecting predominantly this gender, such as BN/BED.