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Binge-Eating Brain Cells

May 26, 2017

Activating neurons in the subthalamus region of the brain caused mice to binge eat.



An instant appetite. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Researchers using deep brain stimulation to treat Parkinson’s disease symptoms discovered an unexpected side effect.

ANTHONY van den POL (Yale University School of Medicine):

Patients showed signs of binge eating disorder. Basically, someone eats a large amount of food quickly.


Intrigued, Yale University School of Medicine neurobiologists Anthony van den Pol and Xiaobing Zhang used blue light to activate specially-treated neurons in the same brain region of mice, called the zona incerta. Within a few seconds, the mice started to chow down.

van den POL:

They’d eat 35% of their normal daily food intake in just 10 minutes.


The researchers report in the journal Science that repeated stimulation led to rapid weight gain, which reversed itself when the light ceased. The work could contribute to better treatments for binge-eating disorder in humans. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard