Intracerebroventricular administration of oxytocin (OT) and an OT agonist significantly decreased food intake in a dose-related manner in fasted rats. Central administration of an OT antagonist by itself (up to doses of 8 nmol) did not potentiate deprivation-induced food intake, but pretreatment with the OT receptor antagonist prevented the expected inhibition of food intake produced by OT and the OT agonist. Once-daily ICV injections of OT led to the development of tolerance to the inhibitory effects on food intake by the third day of treatment, but daily pretreatment with the OT antagonist prevented the development of this tolerance. In addition to causing decreased food intake, ICV administration of OT significantly increased grooming behavior but produced no dyskinesias. The inhibitory effect of OT on food intake was characterized by decreased amounts of food intake but a normal pattern of ingestion. The anorexia produced was central in nature and was not associated with altered plasma levels of hormones involved in caloric homeostasis or with changes in blood glucose. The OT agonist had relatively little effect on water intake when given in doses that significantly inhibited food intake. These results support the hypothesis that specific OT receptors within the central nervous system participate in the inhibition of feeding under certain conditions in rats.