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Small Study Finds Brain Stimulation can help with Weight Loss

Update Date: Nov 06, 2015 03:00 PM EST

Noninvasive brain stimulation can help people lose weight, a small study concluded.

For this study, researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recruited nine obesity adults. During the first part of the study, the participants were placed on a five-day diet that helped maintain their weight. Three days after, the participants were given brain stimulation via a low and painless electric current known as a transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Some of the adults received a fake tDCS.

The current was directed at the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (LFLPFC). In other studies, researchers have linked low activity levels in the LFLPFC to obesity. This region of the brain is tied to taste, reward processes and behavior regulation.

After the stimulation part of the study, the participants were allowed to eat and drink whatever they wanted from a vending machine. The researchers then repeated the eight-day experiment one more time.

The researchers found that the people who received the active tCDS ate fewer calories per day and lost a little bit of weight. People who received the fake current consumed about the same amount of calories and experienced no weight changes.

"The aim of our study was to see if increasing activation in the left DLPFC would decrease food and drink intake and lead to weight loss," study author Marci E. Gluck said reported by TIME. "Because of the ability of tDCS to enhance cortical excitability, we thought it could help people control their eating."

The team cautioned that since their study was extremely small, more research will need to be done to determine if noninvasive brain stimulation could be another form of treatment for people with weight problems.

The study was published in the journal, Obesity.

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