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Current Neuropharmacology


ISSN (Print): 1570-159X
ISSN (Online): 1875-6190

Review Article

Neurostimulation in Clinical and Sub-clinical Eating Disorders: A Systematic Update of the Literature

Author(s): Bethan Dalton, Savani Bartholdy, Iain C. Campbell and Ulrike Schmidt*

Volume 16, Issue 8, 2018

Page: [1174 - 1192] Pages: 19

DOI: 10.2174/1570159X16666180108111532

Price: $65


Introduction: Whilst psychological therapies are the main approach to treatment of eating disorders (EDs), advances in aetiological research suggest the need for the development of more targeted, brain-focused treatments. A range of neurostimulation approaches, most prominently repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and deep brain stimulation (DBS), are rapidly emerging as potential novel interventions. We have previously reviewed these techniques as potential treatments of EDs.

Aim: To provide an update of the literature examining the effects of DBS, rTMS and tDCS on eating behaviours, body weight and associated symptoms in people with EDs and relevant analogue populations.

Methods: Using PRISMA guidelines, we reviewed articles in PubMed, Web of Science, and PsycINFO from 1st January 2013 until 14th August 2017, to update our earlier search. Studies assessing the effects of neurostimulation techniques on eating and weight-related outcomes in people with EDs and relevant analogue populations were included. Data from both searches were combined.

Results: We included a total of 32 studies (526 participants); of these, 18 were newly identified by our update search. Whilst findings are somewhat mixed for bulimia nervosa, neurostimulation techniques have shown potential in the treatment of other EDs, in terms of reduction of ED and associated symptoms. Studies exploring cognitive, neural, and hormonal correlates of these techniques are also beginning to appear.

Conclusions: Neurostimulation approaches show promise as treatments for EDs. As yet, large wellconducted randomised controlled trials are lacking. More information is needed about treatment targets, stimulation parameters and mechanisms of action.

Keywords: Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, transcranial direct current stimulation, deep brain stimulation, neurostimulation.

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