Parkinson's disease and binge eating

April 4, 2018, International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA)

The results of a new study conducted by Damiano Terenzi, Raffaella Rumiati and Marilena Aiello of SISSA show that "binge eating," which affects some Parkinson's patients, is associated with an impairment of working memory. This deficit prevents people from remembering the long-term goal of healthy eating behaviours. A fault in this mechanism was previously associated with eating disorders that typically affect adolescents. In the study, published in Parkinsonism and Related Disorders, the authors also investigated reward sensitivity and, its components, including the pleasure connected with the consumption of food and the desire to obtain food.

"Binge eating may affect different Parkinson's as a side effect of dopaminergic drugs they need to take," explain Damiano Terenzi and Marilena Aiello, respectively first author and coordinator of the research. "In literature, such as hypersexuality or gambling have often been described in Parkinson's disease and associated to an alteration of working memory and of reward sensitivity. On , it has never been investigated. This is the first survey ever to be conducted on this specific problem."

A problem with the reward mechanism

The scholars began by analysing reward sensitivity to understand if it was altered in Parkinson's patients with binge eating. Reward sensitivity comprises two components: The first is "liking," and it is associated with the pleasure of eating. The second is "wanting," the drive to search for the experience of pleasure and repeat it. To measure the first component, the authors used an affective priming task in which the participants were asked to classify a stimulus via an emoticon as positive or negative, preceded by foods presented subliminally, that is, without being visible to the participants. If the food had a positive value for the participant, the researchers expected them to be quicker at classifying positive stimuli and vice versa for with a negative value. To assess the second component, the authors presented images of foods and asked participants how much they craved them by exerting pressure on a hand-grip dynamometer. In this task, the effort exerted by the participant was considered to be directly associated to his motivation for the reward.

The authors write, "Our study showed that the patients with Parkinson's disease affected by binge eating give a negative value to sweet foods compared to the participants not affected by the disease, probably because this category of foods is very problematic for them, but they do not exhibit an increased desire for the same category of foods."

But the presence of binge eating is also associated with a working . Working memory allows people to retain information while carrying out an action. The authors speculate that due to a working memory deficit, Parkinson's patients suffering from binge eating may be unable to stop gorging themselves and think about the possible effects of their behaviour.

The authors conclude: "This study gives precise indications about the mechanisms that are altered in binge eating in Parkinson's patients. It is a first and important step to understanding its origins. Other surveys must be conducted to confirm and explore this evidence regarding a behaviour which not only heavily affects the quality of life of patients, but also exposes them to serious long-term consequences for their health, such as weight gain and related diseases."

Explore further: Overvaluation, binge eating linked to functional impairment

More information: Damiano Terenzi et al, Reward sensitivity in Parkinson's patients with binge eating, Parkinsonism & Related Disorders (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.parkreldis.2018.03.007

Related Stories

Overvaluation, binge eating linked to functional impairment

February 2, 2018
(HealthDay)—Overvaluation and binge eating are strong and unique predictors of distress and impairment among women with binge-eating disorder (BED), according to a study published recently in the International Journal of ...

Transcranial direct current stimulation beneficial in BED

May 17, 2016
(HealthDay)—Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is beneficial in binge-eating disorder (BED), with decreased cravings for sweets, savory proteins, and all foods, according to a study published online May 9 in ...

Weight and eating habits in Parkinson's disease

November 20, 2014
Patients affected by Parkinson's disease often show marked changes in body weight: they may gain or lose a lot of weight depending on the stage of the disease, or they may put on up to ten kilos after deep brain stimulation ...

Research links impulsivity and binge eating

May 28, 2015
Do you get impulsive when you're upset? If so, this could be putting you at risk for binge eating.

Smarter apps to help fight the scourge of eating disorders

November 17, 2017
Around 20 million people in the EU suffer from eating disorders with an annual associated cost of EUR 1 trillion. Debilitating and stressful at best, at worst fatal, those suffering can face long delays in getting treatment. ...

The biology behind binge eating

May 1, 2013
Female rats are much more likely to binge eat than male rats, according to new research that provides some of the strongest evidence yet that biology plays a role in eating disorders.

Recommended for you

New transgenic model of Parkinson's illuminates disease biology

October 11, 2018
Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that presents clinically with abnormal movement and tremors at rest. In the brain, PD is marked by the accumulation of the protein, α-synuclein (αS), into clumps ...

Early Parkinson's patients waiting too long to seek medical evaluation

September 27, 2018
The time between diagnosis and the institution of symptomatic treatment is critical in the effort to find a cure for Parkinson's Disease (PD). A paper published in Nature Partner Journal: Parkinson's Disease notes too many ...

Molecule capable of halting and reverting neurodegeneration caused by Parkinson's disease identified

September 25, 2018
The small SynuClean-D molecule interrupts the formation of the alpha-synuclein amyloid fibres responsible for the onset of Parkinson's disease, and reverts the neurodegeneration caused by the disease. The study, headed by ...

Genomic dark matter activity connects Parkinson's and psychiatric diseases

September 20, 2018
Dopamine neurons are located in the midbrain, but their tendril-like axons can branch far into the higher cortical areas, influencing how we move and how we feel. New genetic evidence has revealed that these specialized cells ...

Gene therapy shown to remove core component of Parkinson's disease

September 14, 2018
An international team led by Rush researcher Jeffrey Kordower, Ph.D., has moved a step closer to developing a treatment to clear brain cells of a protein that is an integral cause of Parkinson's disease. The team published ...

ADHD may increase risk of Parkinson's disease and similar disorders

September 12, 2018
While about 11 percent of children (4-17 years old) nationwide have been diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the long-term health effects of having ADHD and of common ADHD medications remains understudied. ...

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.