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Anorexia Treatment: Deep Brain Stimulation Leads To Weight Gain, Improves Depression & Anxiety

Update Date: Feb 25, 2017 07:10 AM EST

Researchers may have found a new treatment for anorexia. Deep brain stimulation has also lead to subjects reducing level of depression and anxiety.

A Canadian study looked into 16 people with severe anorexia, all women aged between 21 to 57 years old. They had been suffering for anorexia for an average of 18 years. All other anorexia treatment have been tried but failed. Now, they implanted electrodes deep in the brain, a process called deep brain stimulation.

The participants' anorexia was considered severe. They are severely underweight and some are even at risk of dying. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) said that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders. There are 24 million adults in the United States suffering from eating disorders, while 70 million are affected worldwide, mostly women aging 12 to 25 years old.

At the start of the study, electrodes were placed in areas of the brain thought to be linked to anorexia. Few months after the treatment, the participants' depression and anxiety were reduced. After 12 months, some patients gained weight. The body mass index has amazingly increased from 13.8 to 17.3.

When researchers looked into the brain scan of the participants, before and after the deep brain stimulation, they found that there are persistent changes in the brain linked to anorexia. According to Dr. Nir Lipsman, a neurosurgeon at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, there are no effective treatment for people who has long standing anorexia. They are often the sickest and at high risk of dying.

Lipsman is hopeful with the trial because it is one of the first brain-based treatments for anorexia. It will also help validate that anorexia is not a personality or lifestyle choice. However, researchers say that they need to expand the study for the results to be considered.

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