A non-invasive brain stimulation technique suppresses the urge to binge eat and reduces the severity of other common symptoms in people with bulimia, according to new research conducted at King’s College London (KCL).
Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by frequent bouts of binge-eating followed by attempts to counteract the increased food intake via self-induced vomiting, extreme dieting, intense exercise, or the misuse of different medicines.
Experts think the treatment works by boosting an individual’s brain power, helping them better control compulsive behaviour.
Researcher Maria Kekic, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at KCL said: “Our study suggests that a non-invasive brain stimulation technique suppresses the urge to binge eat and reduces the severity of other common symptoms in people with bulimia nervosa, at least temporarily.”
The treatment, known as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), electrically stimulates specific parts of the brain.
Evidence shows that bulimia is associated with altered functioning in certain brain pathways, such as those underlying self-control processes. It may be possible to normalize these pathways using modern neuroscience technologies like tDCS.
Professor Ulrike Schmidt, senior author of the study, also from the Institute of Psychiatry said: ‘The advantage of tDCS is that it’s much less expensive and more portable than other brain stimulation techniques, which raises the prospect of one day offering treatment that could be self-delivered at home by patients with bulimia. ‘
‘This could either be as an addition to talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to improve outcomes, or as a stand-alone alternative approach.’
The findings are published in the online journal PLOS ONE.