Two women with a binge eating disorder credit a brain implant for removing their cravings and recovering from their disorder. The implant apparently zapped the part of their brains linked to cravings, and the two patients believe the implant coerced them into making better decisions about food without “even thinking about it.”
The results of the small study were published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Medicine in August. The study was more of a safety test than a clinical trial meant to monitor results, but the results were fascinating nonetheless.
Casey Halpern, an associate professor of neurosurgery at Penn Medicine, said in a press release that the results were “really impressive and exciting.”
The two patients — Robyn Baldwin, 58, and Lena Tolly, 48 — said that they had fewer binging episodes during their trials. Both women spoke to the New York Times afterwards, claiming that their devices actually altered their cravings and habits.
Wondering how to recover from a binge eating disorder? Zap the hypothalamus, apparently
Baldwin, who had grown accustomed to eating ice cream before work, said: “I could go into the pharmacy and not even think about ice cream.” She also said she now prefers savory foods over sugary ones. Tolly echoed the sentiment, saying that she no longer craves high-calorie foods like peanut butter.
“It’s not like I don’t think about food at all,” Baldwin said. “But I’m no longer a craving person.”
Of course, both women said that they have “tried everything” to lose weight in the past. They had even undergone bariatric surgery for their weight, but nothing seemed to work long term. Now, a movement to find obesity cures that don’t rely on willpower alone is growing nationally.
The science behind the implant is interesting: previous research suggested that a tiny region of the brain, the hypothalamus, sends out brainwaves before someone feels a craving. The implant supposedly recognizes those waves and scrambles them, which seemed to diminish the cravings.
The study only followed the patients for six months, so no long-term data on brain damage is likely to ever be available; but the patients did lose more than 11 pounds each. A larger clinical trial will likely be scheduled in the coming months, but for now, researchers will continue following Baldwin and Tolly, as well as four new patients yet to be named.