Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 375, Issue 1, pp 279–286 | Cite as

Imaging neuropeptide effects on human brain function

  • Arthur LefevreEmail author
  • Rene Hurlemann
  • Valery Grinevich


The discovery of prosocial effects of oxytocin (OT) opened new directions for studying neuropeptide effects on the human brain. However, despite obvious effects of OT on neural responses as reported in numerous studies, other peptides have received less attention. Therefore, we will only briefly summarize evidence of OT effects on human functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and primarily focus on OT’s sister neuropeptide arginine-vasopressin by presenting our own coordinated-based activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis. In addition, we will recapitulate rather limited data on few other neuropeptides, including pharmacological and genetic fMRI studies. Finally, we will review experiments with external neuropeptide administration to patients afflicted with mental disorders, such as autism or schizophrenia. In conclusion, despite remaining uncertainty regarding the penetrance of exogenous neuropeptides through the blood-brain barrier, it is evident that neuropeptides simultaneously influence the activity of limbic and cortical areas, indicating that these systems have a good potential for therapeutic drug development. Hence, this calls for further systematic studies of a wide spectrum of known and less known neuropeptides to understand their normal function in the brain and, subsequently, to tackle their potential contribution for pathophysiological mechanisms of mental disorders.


Neuropeptides Human fMRI ALE Oxytocin Vasopressin 


Funding information

Arthur Lefevre is a recipient of the Fyssen Research Foundation fellowship. The work was supported by the Chica and Heinz Schaller Research Foundation, Thyssen Foundation, SFB 1134 and 1158, DFG-ANR grant GR 3619/701 and Human Frontier Science Program to VG.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Schaller Research Group on NeuropeptidesGerman Cancer Research CenterHeidelbergGermany
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Division of Medical PsychologyUniversity of BonnBonnGermany
  3. 3.Central Institute of Mental HealthMannheimGermany

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