Magnetic Brain Stimulation Helps with Binging and Purging

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Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has been in the news this week because it has been found to help people quit smoking.  TMS has been used in the past to help people with treatment resistant depression.  According to the Mayo Clinic website, TMS is a process during which “a large electromagnetic coil is placed against your scalp near your forehead. The electromagnet used in TMS creates electric currents that stimulate nerve cells in the region of your brain involved in mood control.”

It was through the treatment of depression with TMS that Jonathan Downar, MD, PhD, of the University of Toronto stumbled upon a treatment for eating disorders.  A woman with a long history of bulimia that included binging and purging behaviors was cured of the disorder after TMS therapy.  Since that finding, Dr. Downar has conducted more research with people who struggle with binging and purging.  Of 18 patients who received the TMS treatment, half of them showed a reduction in binging and purging frequency by more than 50%.  Downar explains that the magnetic brain stimulation corrects problems with connectivity between the frontal lobe and areas of the brain dealing with reward, craving and emotions.  He also points out that it is a chicken and egg type of circle we get into when trying to figure out if the mood disorder causes disordered eating or if disordered eating causes the mood disorder.  It is exciting to see this research happening that will help break the vicious cycle of binging and purging for people who struggle with this as part of an eating disorder.

It is important to note that this study was presented at a conference and has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.  Click here to read more about this study.

 

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