Binge Eater? Your Brain Works Differently From Normal Eaters

Mind BurgerNew research just published in the journal Obesity (24 February 2011) reports that people with a diagnosis of binge eating disorder exhibit differences in their brain chemistry from normals. The scientists performed brain scans (called PET scans or positron emission tomography) on 10 obese people with the binge eating diagnosis and 8 obese people without the binging problem.

They looked at changes in the levels of dopamine release in dopamine-rich areas of the brain. Dopamine is one of the main transmitters involved in regulating reward in the brain. They did the PET scans while the subjects were all food-deprived. People also received either a placebo or a drug that amplifies dopamine signals (methylphenidate).

The researchers found that food stimuli given with the methylphenidate significantly raised dopamine in the brain areas studied in the binge eaters, but not in the nonbinge eaters.  The increased dopamine in one area correlated with binge eating scores, but not weight (BMI). The brain area that showed the findings most was the caudate nucleus.

They concluded that dopamine appears to relate to binge eating, but not to BMI in obese persons.

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