Tools that Aid the Treatment of Binge Eating and Obesity

obesityResearchers from Cambridge have developed a technological method to objectively measure a person’s desire to eat, including the ability to record an individual’s perception of hunger.[1] This treatment aid can improve a variety of behavioral treatment strategies.1

The researchers have studied what drives over-consumption in humans.1 To do so, they assessed their subject’s willingness to work or pay for food as they tracked the corresponding brain activity using an MRI scanner.1

“We present alternative ways of exploring attitudes to food by using indirect, objective measures, such as measuring the amount of energy exerted to obtain or view different foods, as well as determining brain responses during the anticipation and consumption of desirable foods,” said principal investigator Paul Fletcher, PhD.1

Fletcher and colleagues used hand-grip intensity to calculate the motivation for a given food reward.1 Fletcher states that typical approaches for evaluating anti-obesity type drugs rely on more subjective measures, such as self-reporting of hunger and cravings, which sets this technology apart from the others.1

“When a person is asked how much they subjectively desire a food, they may feel pressured to give a ‘correct’ rather than true answer,” said Fletcher. “Our grip force task may, under certain circumstances, present a more accurate reflection of what they really want.”1

A new type of technology, Fletcher and colleagues published a video regarding how it actually works.1

“Individuals new to the technique may struggle because there aren’t many examples of grip-force tasks published in the literature, and there are no full and clear descriptions of how to design and set up the tasks,” said Fletcher.1

Fletcher and colleagues used the technology in earlier studies before bringing it to the Journal of Visualized Experiments.1

“Food images engage in subliminal motivation to seek food,” said Fletcher. “[We decided to publish a video capturing the protocol] because it offered the opportunity to demonstrate the methods more fully.”1

However, as the concerns of obesity are rising, Fletcher hopes that researchers can use this technology to determine the efficacy of potential anti-obesity medicines.1

[1] Nauert, R. (2014). New Tools Aid Treatment of Binge Eating and Obesity. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/03/20/new-tools-aid-treatment-of-binge-eating-and-obesity/67369.html

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