12:03am Tuesday 19 November 2019

Brain stimulation may reduce food cravings in bulimia

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.

Effect on craving

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: www.journals.elsevierhealth.com/periodicals/bps/article/S0006-3223%2809%2901416-4/abstract


Notes to editors

King’s College London
King’s College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (Times Higher Education 2009) and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King’s has nearly 23,000 students (of whom more than 8,600 are graduate students) from nearly 140 countries, and some 5,500 employees. King’s is in the second phase of a £1 billion redevelopment programme which is transforming its estate.

King’s has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise for British universities, 23 departments were ranked in the top quartile of British universities; over half of our academic staff work in departments that are in the top 10 per cent in the UK in their field and can thus be classed as world leading. The College is in the top seven UK universities for research earnings and has an overall annual income of nearly £450 million.

King’s has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, the sciences (including a wide range of health areas such as psychiatry, medicine and dentistry) and social sciences including international affairs. It has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA and research that led to the development of radio, television, mobile phones and radar. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe; no university has more Medical Research Council Centres.

King’s College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’, King’s College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts are part of King’s Health Partners. King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) is a pioneering global collaboration between one of the world’s leading research-led universities and three of London’s most successful NHS Foundation Trusts, including leading teaching hospitals and comprehensive mental health services. For more information, visit: www.kingshealthpartners.org.

Further information
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