Binge-Eating Mind

In the immortal words of Homer, “mmmm… donuts!”

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

What’s today’s most common eating disorder? Binge eating! And it’s a major health crisis—more prevalent than breast cancer and HIV. Scientists are hard at work trying to find a solution.

Enter Xiaobing Zhang and Anthony van den Pol, neuroscientists at Yale University. They’re hoping to pinpoint areas in the brain that affect binge eating.

The researchers suspected a brain region known as the subthalamus might be involved. Why? Because stimulating this region to treat movement disorders causes some patients to overeat. Does this mean the subthalamus could actually CONTROL the urge to overeat? They tested mice to find out.

Some mice had their subthalamus stimulated and others did not. After ten minutes, the stimulated mice ate NINE TIMES more food than the others! After two weeks, they were thirty-two percent heavier than their non-binging buddies.

The researchers concluded that an overactive subthalamus DOES trigger binge-eating. Future treatments that calm a hyperactive subthalamus could help suppress the urge to binge.

Can’t help reaching for more dooonuts? Blame your noodle! Sorry.