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Brain stimulation may reduce food cravings in bulimia

29 Aprill 2010

New research led by the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP), King’s College London, which appeared in this month’s Biological Psychiatry, suggests that it could be possible to control binge eating by stimulating the brain.

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, or rTMS, is a non-invasive technique that enables doctors to selectively stimulate areas of the cerebral cortex. The procedure involves holding a coil that delivers the stimulation against the skull adjacent to brain regions of interest. It is currently an accepted treatment for depression, but this approach may apply to other disorders.

In a proof of concept clinical trial, aimed to establish the potential clinical efficacy of a new intervention, the researchers examined an area of the brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which has been implicated in the experience of food craving, an important trigger for bingeing.

Dr Frederique Van den Eynde, who is part of the Section of Eating Disorders at the IoP, and colleagues used rTMS to target this brain region in 38 people with bulimic eating disorders to evaluate its effect on craving. Some of the subjects received real rTMS treatment, while others received inactive rTMS treatment as a control group.

Dr Van den Eynde said: 'We found that in the real rTMS group, food craving was reduced after one session of rTMS, as was binge-eating over the following 24 hours. The data suggest that rTMS may have therapeutic potential for treating craving, however, additional research is necessary to evaluate the longer-term effects of rTMS treatment for bulimic eating disorders.

'Now that TMS is an approved treatment for depression, it is likely that we will see a variety of forms of TMS emerge that might be useful for the treatment of other psychiatric conditions. This work also highlights that binge eating is controlled in important ways by higher cortical centres that can be stimulated by TMS,' commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.

To read the paper, ‘Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation reduces cue-induced food craving in bulimic disorders’ in full, please follow the link:



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