Mouse Tests Show Deep Brain Stimulation Curbs Binge Eating

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Using deep brain stimulation (DBS) in a specific area of the brain appears to reduce caloric intake and lead to weight loss in obese mice prone to binge eating, according to new research published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the official Journal of the Society of Neuroscience.
Senior author Tracy L. Bale, an associate professor of neuroscience at the University Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Animal Biology and the Perelman School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry, and colleagues demonstrated that dopamine deficits play a role in increasing behaviors such as binge eating.
Their work also shows that DBS — which is currently used to reduce tremors in Parkinson´s disease patients and is also being investigated as a potential treatment for depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) — can reverse the response by activating the dopamine type-2 receptor.
Based on their findings, Bale said, DBS “may provide therapeutic relief to binge eating, a behavior commonly seen in obese humans, and frequently unresponsive to other approaches.” Nearly half of all obese men and women binge eat, meaning that they uncontrollably consume large quantities of high-calorie food in a short amount of time.
For their research, Bale and her colleagues targeted the nucleus accumbens, a small structure located in the brain´s reward center that has previously been linked to addictive behaviors. The test subjects that received DBS consumed “significantly less” of the high-fat food than those mice that did not receive stimulation. Furthermore, after the stimulation ceased, the mice did not eat more to make up for the lost calories. However, they did resume binge eating on days during which the devices providing the DBS were switched off.
The investigators also tested the long-term effects of DBS on obese mice that had been given unlimited access to fatty foods. Those mice consumed fewer calories during a four-day period of continuous stimulation therapy, and their body weight dropped as well. Furthermore, those mice showed improvement in their glucose sensitivity, suggesting that DBS could potentially be used to reverse Type 2 diabetes.
“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,” Bale said.
“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,” added lead author Casey Halpern, a resident in the Department of Neurosurgery at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and also involved researchers from the University of Buffalo.