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Binge eaters' dopamine levels spike at sight, smell of food
Date:2/28/2011

se subjects who were not binge eaters.

The scientists used positron emission tomography (PET) to scan the subjects' brains after injecting a radiotracer designed to bind to dopamine receptors in the brain. Because the tracer competes with the brain's natural dopamine to bind to these receptors, the signal picked up by the PET scanner provides an inverse measure of the brain's dopamine levels: a strong signal from the bound tracer indicates low levels of natural brain dopamine; a low signal from the tracer indicates high levels of dopamine in the brain.

Each subject was scanned four times on two different days to test the effects of food stimulation vs. neutral stimulation with and without pre-administration of a drug known to amplify dopamine signals. The drug, methylphenidate, blocks the reuptake of dopamine from brain synapses, allowing it to linger longer. In scans without methylphenidate, subjects were given a placebo drug.

In the food stimulation condition, research subjects' favorite foods were heated (if appropriate) and waved in front of their mouths and noses so they could smell and even taste tiny amounts swabbed onto their tongues. For the neutral stimulation scans, researchers displayed non-food-related pictures and inanimate objects such as toys and clothing items in close proximity so research subjects could smell them while lying in the scanner. In all cases, research subjects had been fasting for 16 hours prior to scans.

Results

Food stimulation with methylphenidate significantly increased dopamine levels in the caudate and putamen regions of the brain in binge eaters but not in the non-binge eaters. Subjects with the most severe binge eating disorder, as assessed by psychological evaluations, had the highest dopamine levels in the caudate.

Dopamine levels did not rise significantly in other brain regions or under any other condition (neutral stimulation with or without methylphenidate, o
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Contact: Karen McNulty Walsh
kmcnulty@bnl.gov
631-344-8350
DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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