AUG. 31, 2022 – Expanding on work conducted on mice, the team discovered that the cravings just before an episode of binge eating set off a specific low-frequency electrical pattern in a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. That structure plays a key role in one of our most primitive mammalian behaviors: the pursuit of pleasure.

The two patients who volunteered for the study were women who had struggled for years with out-of-control eating and were willing to let researchers implant a suite of four electrodes in their brains.

The surgery was no minor procedure. After securing a patient’s head in a stereotactic cage, surgeons take filaments capable of recording and delivering electrical signals and sink them through the skull until they reach the limbic system, the deepest region of the brain. The process is so invasive that researchers allowed six weeks of recovery time before beginning the process of measuring the patients’ responses to food.  The first task was to eavesdrop on the women’s brains as they encountered the kinds of food that triggered binges. Then the researchers used the electrodes to disrupt the electrical signals that came right before the out-of-control eating began.


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