Study shows role of cellular protein in regulation of binge eating

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have demonstrated in experimental models that blocking the Sigma-1 receptor, a cellular protein, reduced binge eating and caused binge eaters to eat more slowly. The research, which is published online in Neuropsychopharmacology, was led by Pietro Cottone, PhD, and Valentina Sabino, PhD, both assistant professors in the pharmacology and psychiatry departments at BUSM.

Binge eating disorder, which affects approximately 15 million Americans, is believed to be the eating disorder that most closely resembles . In binge eating subjects, normal regulatory mechanisms that control hunger do not function properly. Binge eaters typically gorge on "junk" foods excessively and compulsively despite knowing the adverse consequences, which are physical, emotional and social in nature. In addition, binge eaters typically experience distress and withdrawal when they abstain from junk food.

The researchers developed an of compulsive binge eating by providing a sugary, chocolate diet only for one hour a day while the control group was given a standard laboratory diet. Within two weeks, the group exposed to the sugary diet exhibited binge eating behavior and ate four times as much as the controls. In addition, the experimental binge eaters exhibited by putting themselves in a potentially risky situation in order to get to the sugary food while the control group avoided the risk.

The researchers then tested whether a drug that blocks the Sigma-1 receptor could reduce binge eating of the sugary diet. The experimental data showed the drug successfully reduced binge eating by 40 percent, caused the binge eaters to eat more slowly and blocked the risky behavior.

The abnormal, risky behavior exhibited by the binge eating experimental group suggested to the researchers that there could be something wrong with how decisions were made. Because evaluation of risks and decision making are functions executed in the prefronto-cortical regions of the brain, the researchers tested whether the abundance of Sigma-1 receptors in those regions was abnormal in the binge eaters. They found that Sigma-1 receptor expression was unusually high in those areas, which could explain why blocking its function could decrease both compulsive and risky behavior.

"These findings suggest that the Sigma-1 receptor may contribute to the neurobiological adaptations that cause compulsive-like eating, opening up a new potential therapeutic treatment target for ," said Cottone, who also co-directs the Laboratory of Addictive Disorders at BUSM with Sabino.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

High-fat, high-sugar foods alter brain receptors

Jul 28, 2009

Overconsumption of fatty, sugary foods leads to changes in brain receptors, according to new animal research at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The new research results are being presented at the 2009 annual ...

Clinical trial teaches binge eaters to toss away cravings

Feb 10, 2012

Of 190 million obese Americans, approximately 10-15 percent engage in harmful binge eating. During single sittings, these over-eaters consume large servings of high-caloric foods. Sufferers contend with weight gain and depression ...

Recommended for you

Neural spines operate like miniature neurons

30 minutes ago

Nerve cells use a much larger repertoire of data-processing structures than previously thought. Research at LMU and in Regensburg shows that the so-called spines on the dendritic processes of neurons are ...

The brain's electrical alphabet

Jan 23, 2015

The brain's alphabet is a mix of rate and precise timing of electrical pulses: the observation was made by researchers at the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) of Trieste and the Italian Institute ...

Dragnet for epilepsy genes

Jan 23, 2015

An international team of scientists together with the University of Bonn Hospital have taken a new path in the research into causes of epilepsy: The researchers determined the networks of the active genes ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.