Increasing awareness about the importance of embracing all body shapes and sizes may be helping to lessen the overall stigma surrounding issues with eating and weight loss. However, millions still struggle with issues related to food, obesity, and body image on a daily basis. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States experience a clinical eating disorder for some portion of their lives.
Even with treatment centers and organizations devoted to helping and supporting those who deal with bulimia, anorexia, body dysmorphia, compulsive eating, obesity, and other issues, researchers and clinicians are aware of the need for new, innovative approaches to recovery, and neuroscience is playing a crucial role in the latest wave of treatment.
Recent research has examined the effectiveness of deep brain stimulation technology in treating anorexia nervosa and obesity. Deep brain stimulation technology has already proven successful in treating Parkinson’s disease and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Specific areas of the brain have been identified as being involved in the obsessive overeating and under-eating characteristic of obesity and anorexia, respectively (DeSarbo, 2013; Wood, 2013). The electrodes used in deep brain stimulation target these areas, thereby influencing the eating habits of those receiving the treatment (Wood, 2013).
Two studies conducted in 2013 showed this method to be effective in increasing body mass in women with anorexia nervosa, and it is believed that the opposite result—a reduction in body mass—is attainable in those with obesity (Wood). Additional studies are currently in progress to further explore this theory.
In an article published in a recent issue of Making Connections, a NEDA publication, Dr. Jeffrey DeSarbo, a psychiatrist based in New York who specializes in eating and food issues, shares his thoughts on the role of “brain language” in those who experience food-related issues (2013). “When someone suffers from an eating disorder, we know from what they tell us and the things they do that their thoughts are overwhelmingly distressful, all-consuming, and often distorted,” he writes.
The hope is that past and current research involving neuroimaging technology will continue to expose the neurological and biological factors that influence the thoughts and behavior surrounding eating disorders.
At the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals (iaedp) Symposium in 2014, which will be held in St. Petersburg, Florida, from February 26 to March 2, keynote speakers will discuss “the integration of science, psychology, and spirituality” in treating eating issues. While neuroscience is viewed as significant in the future of psychological medicine and will be thoroughly discussed, mindfulness practices will also be emphasized as being of the utmost importance in utilizing any treatment methodology (Lomelino, 2013).
- DeSarbo, J. (2013). The language of the brain. Making Connections, Vol. 6, Issue 4. National Eating Disorders Association. Retrieved from http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/sites/default/files/MakingConnections/Making_Connections_v6.4.pdf
- Lomelino, S. (2013, December 26). 2014 iaedp Symposium presents new insight on neuroscience in the world of psychotherapy. PR Newswire. Retrieved from http://media.prnewswire.com/en/jsp/latest.jsp?resourceid=7405039&access=EH
- National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). Get the facts on eating disorders. Retrieved from http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-facts-eating-disorders
- Wood, S. (2013, November 29). Getting to the root of eating disorders. dailyRx. Retrieved from http://www.dailyrx.com/deep-brain-stimulation-studied-treatment-obesity-and-anorexia
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