Often portrayed as a behavior akin to drug addiction, new research offers evidence that binging on junk food — a psychiatric illness that affects 15 million Americans — might be inhibited by a medication now used to help sustain recovery from alcohol and drug abuse. The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2012, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health by Angelo Blasio, PhD, from BUSM’s Laboratory of Addictive Disorders.
Blasio, along with the study’s senior author Pietro Cottone, PhD, an assistant professor of pharmacology and psychiatry, found that when they used the drug naltrexone to block receptors in a part of the brain involved in seeking rewards and making decisions, excessive consumption of highly palatable foods was curbed.
“These results may open new avenues of investigation toward developing pharmacological treatments for Binge Eating Disorder in humans,” Blasio said. Cottone added “People who engage in this behavior often describe it as a compulsive loss of control and our work shows there may be medications that can help them regain control.”
Other contributors to the study are Valentina Sabino, PhD co-director of the Laboratory of Addictive Disorders with Dr. Cottone and Luca Steardo, MD PhD, Professor of Pharmacology at the Sapienza University, Rome, Italy.
Research was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the Peter Paul Career Development Professorship.