Core symptoms of anorexia nervosa, including the urge to restrict food intake and feeling fat, are reduced after just one session of a non-invasive brain stimulation technique, according to King’s College London research published in PLOS ONE.
Brain stimulation may reduce symptoms of anorexia by improving cognitive control over compulsive features of the disorder.
Dr Jessica McClelland, Post-doctoral Researcher at the IoPPN, King’s College London
This study is the first randomised control trial to assess whether repetitive transcranial stimulation (rTMS), already an approved treatment for depression, is also effective in reducing symptoms of anorexia.
Up to 20 per cent of people with anorexia die prematurely from the disorder and treatments in adults are moderately effective, with only 20-30 per cent of people recovering from the best available talking therapies.
Given the urgent need to improve treatments, researchers are increasingly looking towards emerging neuroscience-based technologies that could target the underlying neural basis of anorexia.
Up to 20 per cent of people with anorexia die prematurely from the disorder
Dr Jessica McClelland, Post-doctoral Researcher at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London, and first author of the study, said: ‘We found that one session of rTMS reduced the urge to restrict food intake, levels of feeling full and levels of feeling fat, as well as encouraging more prudent decision-making. Taken together, these findings suggest that brain stimulation may reduce symptoms of anorexia by improving cognitive control over compulsive features of the disorder.’
The study authors point out that although these findings were only a statistical trend, there is a clear improvement in symptoms and decision-making abilities following just one session of rTMS. It is likely that with a larger sample and multiple sessions of rTMS these effects would be even stronger.