Doctors are still exploring the usefulness of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, and now a new study might have found another use. Researchers found that using magnetic brain stimulation can curb food cravings in people with obesity.
Researchers in Italy discovered this as they were investigating whether deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) could be an alternative treatment to invasive surgery or drugs in treating obesity.
Their results build off of previous evidence that suggest the condition of obesity can be caused by issues with the reward pathway in the brain. Many obese patients are more prone to food cravings than the general public due to these changes in the neurophysiological pathway. It is similar to how some people are more vulnerable to addictive substances and behaviors like drinking and gambling.
dTMS was administered in patients diagnosed with obesity. They then measured the presence of beta-endorphins in their bodies, which are neurotransmitters associated with reward feelings after food is ingested. They found that high-frequency dTMS caused the level of beta-endorphins to rise compared to no treatment or low-level dTMS.
Lead author of the study, Professor Livio Luzi said, “The study is significant because it demonstrates the neurophysiological mechanism via which transcranial magnetic stimulation can modulate the reward pathway increasing the levels of beta-endorphins and reducing appetite. Our innovative idea was to apply the methodology to obesity considering this disease as a ‘food addiction.'”
This study points to a strong biological basis for food preferences and eating behaviors, something scientists have only theorized at in the past. It highlights that there are vital areas in the brain that regulate hunger and food cravings. Further studies hope to explore this further and see how dTMS and other brain stimulation can help treat obese patients.
Doctors say dTMS is likely to prevent obesity, as that’s a wider environmental and behavioral issue. However, with more than 70% of American adults suffering from obesity or being overweight, this approach can provide some answers and hope for treatment.