Dallas researcher studies brain's role in binge eating



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Posted on October 29, 2012 at 5:15 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 29 at 8:21 PM

DALLAS — Pop open a soda, or try a bite of a donut. All it takes is one drop or morsel for your brain to respond.

Researcher Dr. Francesa Filbey, with the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas, says the study starts here.

People with a median body mass index of 32 — which is considered obese — sat in an MRI machine while being served a high calorie drink. Immediately, the brain responds — showing red on the MRI readout.

That happens for all of us, but it's how that action affects the rest of the brain that makes a difference.

“It communicates with the areas for emotion, motivation, and habit,” Dr. Filbey said.

People with a high BMI alone didn't create more activity, but people defined as "binge eaters" did show a lot more red in parts of the brain, encouraging overeating.

“People might say they aren't trying harder, or they are just making the wrong choices, but our findings show there is something in their brains that is different,” Filbey said.

That difference is enough to trigger binge eating, a trait ingrained deep in the brain.

“There are people who need a lot more of these potent, highly rewarding, sugary foods," Dr. Filbey said. "A lot more of it feel the same level of satisfaction as other people do."

This research will now be repeated and analyzed to help work toward treatments that remain years down the road.

E-mail sslater@wfaa.com