Study shows role of cellular protein in regulation of binge eating

June 20, 2012

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.

Explore further: Study shows why underrepresented men should be included in binge eating research

Related Stories

Study shows why underrepresented men should be included in binge eating research

October 26, 2011
Binge eating is a disorder which affects both men and women, yet men remain underrepresented in research. A new study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders has found that the medical impact of the disorder ...

Clinical trial teaches binge eaters to toss away cravings

February 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 ...

Improving body satisfaction can help prevent eating disorders and obesity

May 11, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- In a study that examined the relationship between body dissatisfaction, body mass index (BMI) and binge eating in overweight and obese adolescent girls, Kendrin R. Sonneville, ScD, RD, researcher ...

Recommended for you

Brain region mediates pleasure of eating

August 22, 2017
Providing the body with food is essential for survival. But even when full, we can still take pleasure in eating. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried and the Friedrich Miescher Institute ...

Activating brain region creates intense desire to use cocaine

August 22, 2017
Researchers have identified a portion of the brain that intensifies one's desire for certain rewards—in this case, mimicking addiction to cocaine.

Chronic stress induces fatal organ dysfunctions via a new neural circuit

August 22, 2017
Hokkaido University researchers revealed that fatal gut failure in a multiple sclerosis (MS) mouse model under chronic stress is caused by a newly discovered nerve pathway. The findings could provide a new therapeutic strategy ...

Contact in sports may lead to differences in the brains of young, healthy athletes

August 22, 2017
People who play contact sports show changes to their brain structure and function, with sports that have greater risk of body contact showing greater effects on the brain, a new study has found.

Research reveals 'exquisite selectivity' of neuronal wiring in the cerebral cortex

August 21, 2017
The brain's astonishing anatomical complexity has been appreciated for over 100 years, when pioneers first trained microscopes on the profusion of branching structures that connect individual neurons. Even in the tiniest ...

Afternoon slump in reward response

August 21, 2017
Activation of a reward-processing brain region peaks in the morning and evening and dips at 2 p.m., finds a study of healthy young men published in The Journal of Neuroscience. This finding may parallel the drop in alertness ...

0 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.