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Can Brain Stimulation Curb Binge Eating?

Scientists were able to reduce obesity in mice using deep brain stimulation, but will it work on humans?

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Binge eating is a big problem.

By Bryan Le

04/25/13

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Researchers hope deep brain stimulation (DBS) might be a tool in the fight against obesity, since it was found to help curb binge eating in mice, according to new research published in the Journal of Neuroscience. By stimulating a region in the brain where dopamine is produced, scientists were able to reduce caloric intake in obese mice, leading to weight loss. “Based on this research, DBS may provide therapeutic relief to binge eating, a behavior commonly seen in obese humans, and frequently unresponsive to other approaches,” says study author and neuroscience researcher Tracy Bale. “These results are our best evidence yet that targeting the nucleus accumbens with DBS may be able to modify specific feeding behaviors linked to body weight changes and obesity.” Researchers hope the findings may offer hope for treating binge eating, a behavior attributed to more than half of people who are unhealthily overweight. “Once replicated in human clinical trials, DBS could rapidly become a treatment for people with obesity due to the extensive groundwork already established in other disease areas,” says lead author Casey Halpern, of the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania. Up until now, DBS has been used in humans to treat Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy, and past studies have suggested that it may be effective in helping treat drug addiction.

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