The neuroprotective drug memantine, used to treat Alzheimer’s Disease, may reduce the addictive and impulsive behavior associated with binge eating.
Binge eating disorder is a prevalent illness in America, affecting more than 10 million people. It is characterized by periods of excessive uncontrolled consumption of food, followed by uncomfortable fullness and feelings of self-disgust. New evidence indicates that changes in brain chemistry reflecting the addictive nature of binge eating may parallel drug and alcohol addiction.
Boston University School of Medicine’s Pietro Cottone, PhD, led a group of researchers who used an experimental model to simulate binge-eating behavior. They identified the nucleus accumbens as the area of the brain associated with binge eating and then suppressed the behavior by applying memantine directly.
“We found that memantine, which blocks glutamate NMDA receptors, blocks binge eating of junk food, blocks the strength of cues associated with junk food, and blocks the compulsivity associated with binge eating,” explained Cottone, an associate professor of pharmacology and psychiatry at BUSM and co-director of the Laboratory of Addictive Disorders.
This research opens new avenues for binge eating treatment especially since memantine is a drug already approved for other indications. “Individuals with binge eating disorder have a very poor quality of life and decreased lifespan. Our study gives a better understanding of the underpinning neurobiological mechanisms of the disorder,” added coauthor Valentina Sabino, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and psychiatry at BUSM and co-director of the Laboratory of Addictive Disorders.
The study appears in the journal Neuopsychopharmacology.