Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Suppressing Hunger with Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation

Does magnetic resonance stimulation of the brain prevent hunger and help treat obesity?

When we were treating patients in Spokane with magnetic resonance stimulation for the FDA approved indication of improving refractory depression, I often wondered if it was also helping treat obesity, based on careful observation of our patients' metabolic health and parameters.

There were some obvious reasons why this might be happening, I thought.   The most important reason being that when patients were treated with MR stimulation of the prefrontal cortex of the brain, they would need less and use less use of antidepressants, and lower doses.  Most antidepressants are "weight positive", that is they induce weight gain.  So it made sense to me that patients seemed to lose some of their excess weight with MR stimulation, since this treatment reduced the need for these weight inducing antidepressants, while continuing to improve their depression.

However, a recent metanalysis by Peter Hall at the University of Waterloo in Canada presents a new twist on that theme - possibly the MR stimulation is having a much more direct effect on obesity.  This metanalysis suggests that stimulating the prefrontal cortex with non-invasive magnetic resonance stimulation, which is the modality we used in our practice, directly suppresses binge eating and cravings.  The results are a little mixed, and it is not clear that reduced use of antidepressants was controlled for in these studies, but promising insights and trends seen nonetheless.

April 19, 2017    Debra Ravasia

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