Hormonal satiety signals secreted by the gut play a pivotal role in the physiological control of appetite. However, therapeutic exploitation of the gut–brain axis requires greater insight into the interaction of gut hormones with CNS circuits of appetite control. Using the manganese ion (Mn2+) as an activity-dependent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agent, we showed an increase in signal intensity (SI) in key appetite-regulatory regions of the hypothalamus, including the arcuate, paraventricular, and ventromedial nuclei, after peripheral injection of the orexigenic peptide ghrelin. Conversely, administration of the anorexigenic hormone peptide YY3–36 caused a reduction in SI. In both cases, the changes in SI recorded in the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus preceded the effect of these peptides on food intake. Intravenous Mn2+ itself did not significantly alter ghrelin-mediated expression of the immediate early gene product c-Fos, nor did it cause abnormalities of behavior or metabolic parameters. We conclude that manganese-enhanced MRI constitutes a powerful tool for the future investigation of the effects of drugs, hormones, and environmental influences on neuronal activity.