Study: Experimental anorexia treatment with deep brain stimulation may provide lasting results

March 7, 2013 by Arezu Sarvestani

Researchers uncover another potential platform for deep brain stimulation, treating patients with chronic and treatment-resistant anorexia.

deep brain stimulation illustration

In what some are calling "a world 1st," researchers reported some success in treating severe anorexia patients via implanted electrodes that delivered electrical energy to the regions of the brain associated with emotion.

The study enrolled 6 patients to receive the experimental treatment, reporting that 3 of the 6 achieved weight gain and 4 of the 6 reported changes in mood, anxiety, control over their urges to binge and purge and other symptoms associated with anorexia.

"There is an urgent need for additional therapies to help those suffering from severe anorexia," researcher Dr. Blake Woodside said in prepared remarks. "Eating disorders have the highest death rate of any mental illness and more and more women are dying from anorexia."

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"Any treatment that could potentially change the natural course of this illness is not just offering hope but saving the lives for those that suffer from the extreme form of this condition," Woodside added.

The patient involved in the study were considered at high risk of chronic illness or premature death as a result of the severity of their anorexia. They had an average age of 38 and had suffered from anorexia for an average of 18 years. Each patient had previously suffered medical complications as a result of the anorexia and all but 1 also had psychiatric conditions, such as major depressive disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.