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Brain stimulation ‘safe to treat obesity’

Monday May 21st, 2018

Brain stimulation could be a safe way help to treat obesity because it helps to reduce food cravings, a conference will hear today.

Results being presented to delegates at the European Society of Endocrinology annual meeting, ECE 2018, show that Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (dTMS) has yielded positive results after a single treatment session.

It could mean it becomes a safer alternative to invasive surgery and drugs, which can cause side effects.

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (dTMS) uses magnetic energy to stimulate neurons in specific areas of the brain and is used to treat depression and addictive behaviours.

Although previous studies have suggested dTMS could be a good option to reduce drug and food cravings, an Italian study is the first to investigate it.

Led by Professor Livio Luzi and colleagues, from the Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico Policlinico San Donato, the study investigated the effects of dTMS on appetite and satiety in obese people.

They studied the effects of a single 30 minute session of dTMS, at high or low frequency, on blood markers potentially associated with food reward in a group of 40 obese patients.

They found that high frequency dTMS significantly increased blood levels of beta-endorphins, which are neurotransmitters involved in producing heightened feelings of reward after food ingestion, compared to low frequency dTMS or controls.

Professor Luzi said: “For the first time, this study is able to suggest an explanation of how dTMS could alter food cravings in obese subjects.

“We also found that some blood markers potentially associated with food reward, for example glucose, vary according to gender, suggesting male/female differences in how vulnerable patients are to food cravings, and their ability to lose weight.”

The next stage of the research is to include using brain imaging studies to directly identify how high frequency dTMS changes the structure and function of the obese brain, both short and long term, and extending this treatment to a larger population of obese patients.

“Given the distressing effects of obesity in patients, and the socioeconomic burden of the condition, it is increasingly urgent to identify new strategies to counteract the current obesity trends. dTMS could present a much safer and cheaper alternative to treat obesity compared to drugs or surgery,” added Professor Luzi.

Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation acutely modulates neuro-endocrine pathways underlying obesity will be presented today at the European Congress of Endocrinology at the Centre Convencions Internacional Barcelona, Spain.

Tags: Brain & Neurology | Diet & Food | Europe

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