Electrical stimulation of the brain helped to cope with overeating

(ORDO NEWS) — A team of American scientists have conducted the first clinical trial of a device that stimulates the brain with electricity to treat compulsive overeating.

When an excessive craving for food was detected, the device changed the activity of a certain part of the brain, allowing two patients with severe obesity to improve self-control of food intake and even lose weight.

Overeating with loss of control over the amount of food consumed or a subjective feeling of lack of satiety, in which a person cannot stop eating, are key features of a disorder known as compulsive overeating (CB).

A characteristic feature of CP is the absence of real physical hunger, which is why people lean on high-calorie foods rich in fats and carbohydrates (sweets, fast food, etc.). As a result, this leads to obesity of varying severity.

Most obesity treatments cannot directly address the loss of food control itself and limit the effectiveness of even the most aggressive bariatric surgery interventions (reducing the size of the stomach, creating a bypass for food past part of the small intestine, and so on).

In a previous study, a team of scientists from Stanford University (USA) showed , using mice as an example, that behavior like overeating can be suppressed by electrical stimulation of the nucleus accumbens, an area of ​​the brain involved in the reward system, the formation of pleasure, addiction, aggression and fear.

n this region, the authors found noticeable delta oscillations (repetitive synchronous activity of a network of neurons with a frequency of 0.5 to four hertz) that appear a few seconds before a meal. However, they signaled not just about food reward, but about the craving for overeating, both in mice and in humans.

In the new work, scientists decided to conduct the first clinical trials of the device for electrical stimulation of the nucleus accumbens in humans.

Electrical stimulation of the brain helped to cope with overeating
Phased scheme of the study (a). Three-dimensional model (reconstructed from tomography) of the immersion of two quadripolar electrodes to the accumbens, painted in red (b)

The study lasted six months and included only two severely obese patients. During the experiment, a device was implanted in their brains (similar ones are installed in patients with drug-resistant epilepsy), which, when a delta rhythm of a certain power was detected in the nucleus accumbens, automatically sent an electrical stimulus to this region of the brain, disrupting such oscillations.

For six months of treatment, the subjects revealed the minimum number of cases of overeating. Weight loss is also reported (about six and eight kilograms, or 4.5 and 5.8 percent of total body weight, respectively). And that’s without instructions for diet changes or additional physical activity.

Against the backdrop of the success of their work, the authors began recruiting new patients for a larger study. In addition, they note that the same treatment approach could, in principle, be applied to other types of loss of control disorders.

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