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Electric Shocks To the Brain Might Help People Deal With Obesity

Update Date: Jun 27, 2012 08:15 AM EDT

For all the people who are unable to stop themselves from overeating, here is something bizarre, but may be helpful. A latest study has revealed that giving electric shocks to the brain might be the answer to obesity.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have discovered, during an experiment conducted on mice, that brain stimulation can reduce the desire to eat.

Electric shock treatments are currently approved for certain neurological and psychiatric disorders, such as Parkinson's disease.

According to the scientists, the treatment does not destroy brain cells and does not cause pain.

"Doing brain surgery for obesity treatment is a controversial idea. However, binge eating is a common feature of obese patients that frequently is associated with suboptimal treatment outcomes," study author Dr Casey Halpern said.

According to Dr Halpern, the current treatments available for obesity do not deal with the neural basis of compulsive overeating which often leads to obesity.

The study on mice revealed that electric shock to the brain could reduce their desire to over-eat and scientists believe that the same can work for humans too.

Nucleus accumbens, a part of the brain, is known to be deregulated in both rodents and people who over eat. Thus, targeting that region of the brain with deep brain stimulation works to help people control binge eating.

The process involves a surgery, wherein an electrode is implanted in the nucleus accumbens. Wires connect the electrode to an external neurostimulator, which is a device similar to a pacemaker. Once the neurotransmitter is switched on, the stimulator triggers the electrode to deliver continuous electrical pulses to the brain, said the report.

Once the mice recovered from the surgery, they were given high-fat food every day at the same time for an hour, and their food consumption was measured. Over indulgence in food was defined as consuming 25 per cent or more of the usual daily caloric intake during this period. Mice overate for almost a week, say the authors.

Later on, the stimulator was switched on on altering days. It was found that the days on which the stimulator was turned on, there was approximately a 60 per cent decrease in consumption of the high-fat diet by the mice. On days when the stimulator was off, mice overate.

The study results will be presented at The Endocrine Society's 94th Annual Meeting in Houston.

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