A New Therapy That Can Potentially Treat Anorexia

By Sharon Moore on March 08, 2013

Deep Brain Stimulation – a new technology that involves sending electrical impulses in targeted areas in the brain, and was found to be successful in treating depression and Parkinson’s disease, can also be helpful in preventing weight loss in people with anorexia, a new study suggests.

In a pilot study published in The Lancet Medical Journal, researchers from University of Toronto performed a form of deep brain stimulation (DBS) called ‘pacemaker’ in the brains of anorexia patients. Although the trial was designed to test the safety of the new technology, the findings suggest that it can actually be used as an effective therapy especially for those who have failed to respond to conventional treatments.

The study involved six women aged 24 to 57 who had been anorexic for 4 to 37 years.  All of the participants had experienced complications and hospital admissions due to their conditions, and have already stopped responding to treatments.

Pacemaker to Promote Weight Gain in Anorexic Patients

The procedure involved implanting electrodes into the area in the brain associated to mood and depression. The electrodes were then connected to a pacemaker-like generator hidden under the skin just below the collar bone.

Surprisingly, just three months after the pacemaker procedure, the participants have started gaining weight. After 9 months, they had significantly increased their weight. According to the researchers, it was the longest period of sustained weight gain the participants had since they became ill.

The pacemaker therapy did not just help the women gain weight. It also improved their mood and anxiety levels, as well as their control over emotional responses such as the urge to binge-eat and compulsion. "By pinpointing and correcting the precise circuits in the brain associated with the symptoms of some of these conditions, we are finding additional options to treat these illnesses." says Dr Andres Lozano – the lead researcher from the Krembil Neuroscience Centre in Toronto.

Anorexia nervosa is a mental health problem and eating disorder that can have lethal effects to individuals. People with anorexia try to keep their weight as low as possible, even if that means compromising their health. According to records, up to a fifth of anorexia sufferers fail to respond to conventional treatments. They are also at risk of dying from starvation and infection. Anorexic individuals are at a higher risk of developing kidney problems, heart failure, and liver damage.

"Eating disorders have the highest death rate of any mental illness and more and more women are dying from anorexia.” points co-author Professor Blake Woodside. He said there is an urgent need for additional therapies to help people suffering from anorexia.

 

Source of this article:

Pacemaker in the brain ’could treat anorexia sufferers’

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