Deep brain stimulation shows promise against binge eating disorder: Study

Implanted brain-stimulating device dramatically reduced bingeing episodes

A small device that detects food craving-related brain activity in a key brain region, and responds by electrically stimulating that region, has shown promise in a pilot clinical trial in two patients with loss-of-control binge eating disorder (BED), according to researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, US.

The trial, described in a paper that appeared in Nature Medicine, followed the two patients for six months, during which the implanted device, of a type normally used to treat drug-resistant epilepsy, monitored activity in a brain region called the nucleus accumbens.

The nucleus accumbens is involved in processing pleasure and reward, and has been implicated in addiction. Whenever the device sensed nucleus accumbens signals that had been found to predict food cravings in prior studies, it automatically stimulated that brain region, disrupting the craving-related signals. Over six months of treatment, the patients reported far fewer binge episodes, and lost weight.

The scientists have continued to follow the subjects for another six months, and have begun enrolling new patients for a larger study. They note that, in principle, the same treatment approach could be applied to other loss-of-control-related eating disorders including bulimia.

Image credit- shutterstock

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