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Deep Brain Stimulation Effective against Anorexia Nervosa

Mar 07, 2013 08:19 AM EST

According to a new study, Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) in people with treatment-resistant anorexia nervosa can help them manage their weight better and relieve symptoms of anxiety.

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder where people lose a lot of weight that is unhealthy for the body, according to Medline Plus. People with this condition have a fear of putting on weight, even when they are underweight. These people diet, exercise and use other means to stay thin. There is no known cause for this disorder. Experts believe genes and hormones play a vital role in the onset of this disorder. Social attitudes promoting very thin bodies are known to push people into this condition.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Krembil Neuroscience Centre and the University Health Network.

The present study was based on a small group of six people suffering from anorexia nervosa. Participants were aged around 38 years and altogether had around 50 hospitalizations due to the condition. All but one suffered from other psychiatric disorders like major depression.

Participants were treated with DBS which is a procedure that changes the activity of certain circuits in the brain that haven't been functioning properly. Previous studies have shown that the brains of people with this eating disorder differ in both structure and function, especially those that control mood, reward and body perception.

In the study, three patients gained body weight that was never seen before in anorexia nervosa patients.

"We are truly ushering in a new of era of understanding of the brain and the role it can play in certain neurological disorders. By pinpointing and correcting the precise circuits in the brain associated with the symptoms of some of these conditions, we are finding additional options to treat these illnesses," said Dr. Andres Lozano, a neurosurgeon, at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre of Toronto who was involved in the current study, according to a statement.

Kim Rollins, 36, who suffered from the condition for almost 20 years, said that the treatment gave her a new life.

"From the depths of my anorexia, I never thought this would be possible," she said in a news release. "This procedure gave me new life, new hope. I am moving on with my life in a positive direction and making plans for my future that would never have been possible before the surgery."

The study is published in the journal The Lancet.   

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