Neuromodulation and neurofeedback treatments in eating disorders and obesity

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Psychological interventions are the treatment of choice for most eating disorders; however, significant proportions of patients do not recover with these. Advances in understanding of the neurobiology of eating disorders have led to the development of targeted treatments, such as deep brain stimulation (DBS), noninvasive brain stimulation (NIBS), and neurofeedback. We review the emerging clinical evidence for the use of these interventions in eating disorders and obesity, together with their theoretical rationale. Finally, we reflect on future developments.

Recent findings

During the last 20 months, seven case studies/series and seven randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of NIBS or neurofeedback in different eating disorders, obesity, or food craving have appeared. These have largely had promising results. One NIBS trial, using a multisession protocol, was negative. A case series of subcallosal DBS in anorexia nervosa has also shown promise. A search of trial registries identified a further 21 neuromodulation/feedback studies in progress, indicating that neuromodulation/feedback is an area of growing interest.

Summary

At present, neuromodulation and neurofeedback are largely experimental interventions; however, growing understanding of the mechanisms involved, together with the rising number of studies in this area, means that the clinical utility of these interventions is likely to become clearer soon.

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