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Can't resist that doughnut An electric shock to the brain 'could stop people from binge eating'
When stimulator turned on in obese mice, scientists saw 60 per cent drop in consumption of high-fat foodTreatment is already approved for certain neurological and psychiatric disorders
11:38 GMT, 26 June 2012
13:03 GMT, 26 June 2012
Scientists have come up with an unusual new treatment for obesity – a zap of electricity to the brain.
A team from the University of Pennsylvania believe deep brain stimulation may reduce the desire to eat.
The treatment is already approved for certain neurological and psychiatric disorders, such as Parkinson's disease.
The procedure does not destroy any part of the brain and typically does not cause pain.
Can't resist Scientists are investigating whether deep brain stimulation could cure binge eating
Study author Dr Casey Halpern, said: 'Doing brain surgery for obesity treatment is a controversial idea.
'However, binge eating is a common feature of obese patients that frequently is associated with suboptimal treatment outcomes.'
Dr Halpern said available treatments of obesity didn't adequately address the neural basis of compulsive overeating that often led to obesity.
In tests, the electric shock to the brain reduced the desire to over-eat in mice and the researchers think it could have the same effect on humans.
A region of the brain called the nucleus accumbens is known to be dysregulated in both rodents and people who binge eat. Therefore, Dr Halpern and his co-workers targeted that brain region with deep brain stimulation in a strain of obesity-prone mice.
The surgery involved implanting an electrode in the nucleus accumbens. Wires connected the electrode to an external neurostimulator, a device similar to a pacemaker. When switched on, the stimulator triggers the electrode to deliver continuous electrical pulses to the brain.
After recovery from surgery, the mice received high-fat food at the same time every day for one hour, and the researchers measured their food consumption. Binge eating was defined as consuming 25 per cent or more of the usual daily caloric intake during this period.
For one week, mice consistently binged, eating almost half of their daily calories during this one hour, the authors reported.
Then on alternating days, the investigators turned on the stimulator. On the days that deep brain stimulation was administered, or 'on,' the scientists observed a significant (approximately 60 per cent) decrease in consumption of the high-fat diet. On the alternate days when they turned off the stimulator, binge eating returned.
By regulating various nerve cell receptors with medications they discovered that the stimulation probably worked by affecting the type 2 dopamine receptor.
The study results will be presented at The Endocrine Society's 94th Annual Meeting in Houston.