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New Tools Aid Treatment of Binge Eating and Obesity

By Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 20, 2014

New Tools Aid Treatment of Binge Eating and ObesityCambridge researchers have developed a technological method to objectively measure a person’s desire to eat.

The ability to quantifiably record, rather than subjectively assess, an individual’s perception of hunger improves assessment of a variety of behavioral strategies.

To help other scientists understand the approach, the researchers have published the first peer-reviewed video of their technique in JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments.

In the video, the authors demonstrate their means of objectively studying the drivers and mechanisms of over-consumption in humans.

To do this, they assess their subject’s willingness to work or pay for food, and they simultaneously track the corresponding brain activity using an MRI scanner.

“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 the lab’s principal investigator, Paul Fletcher, Ph.D.

He and his colleagues use participant hand-grip intensity (referred to as “grip force” in the video) to calculate the motivation for a given food reward.

According to Fletcher, typical approaches for evaluating anti-obesity type drugs rely on more subjective methods — like having test subjects self-report their ratings of hunger and cravings.

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

They decided to publish a video capturing the protocol “Because it offered the opportunity to demonstrate the methods more fully,” he said.

In the video, Dr. Fletcher expands on the purpose of publishing the method with JoVE.

“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,” he said.

With rising concerns surrounding obesity, researchers can use the technique presented in the JoVE video to determine the efficacy of a potential emerging market in anti-obesity medicine.

Source: The Journal of Visualized Experiments

Photo credit: JoVE

 

APA Reference
Nauert, R. (2014). New Tools Aid Treatment of Binge Eating and Obesity. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/03/20/new-tools-aid-treatment-of-binge-eating-and-obesity/67369.html