Anorexia patients may benefit from brain stimulation as it can help ease major symptoms related to anorexia nervosa. British researchers evaluated the effectiveness of repetitive transcranial stimulation (rTMS) on treating anorexia – rTMS is currently approved to help treat depression.
First author Jessica McClelland said, “With rTMS we targeted … an area of the brain thought to be involved in some of the self-regulation difficulties associated with anorexia.”
The treatment works by delivering magnetic pulses to specific areas of the brain and feels like a gentle tapping sensation, which alters nerve cells in the brain. McClelland explained, “We found that one session of [brain stimulation] 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.”
Senior author Ulrike Schmidt added, “Anorexia nervosa is thought to affect up to four percent of women in their lifetime. With increasing illness duration, anorexia becomes entrenched in the brain and increasingly difficult to treat. Our preliminary findings support the potential of novel brain-directed treatments for anorexia, which are desperately needed.”
Researchers are now testing long-term benefits of this treatment as a means of helping better treat those with anorexia nervosa.