October 02, 2007
Anorexia Like Ecstasy Drug On Brain?

Anorexics might be responding to something that is stimulating an appetite-suppressing type of receptor which MDMA (ecstasy) also stimulates.

In mouse studies, Valerie Compan from the University of Montpellier, and her colleagues, found that by directly stimulating so-called 5HT-4 receptors in the nucleus accumbens, an area of the brain associated with feelings of reward, they could mimic the effects of anorexia - reducing the animals' desire to eat.

This reduction in appetite is also a well-recognised side effect of ecstasy or MDMA. When the researchers injected MDMA into mice genetically engineered to lack 5HT-4 receptors, it did not cause the reduction in appetite seen in normal mice - suggesting ecstasy's appetite-suppressing effect is mediated by the same receptors.

This discovery could help lead to a treatment for anorexia and also for obesity.

Compan thinks anorexia should be treated like an addiction.

Compan says that ecstasy and anorexia may have more in common than we think. Her study suggests that starving yourself can be addictive, and is further evidence that anorexia may be related to neurological defects.

The findings may also highlight targets for drug treatment. "Our studies over seven years open the possibility that the 5-HT4 receptor would represent an important therapeutic target to treat patients suffering from these disorders," Compan says.

Fat people and anorexics are living testaments to the limits on human free will. Chemicals and receptors in our brains create desires in our minds that are at war with our conscious mind's preferences. Biotechnology is going to strengthen the power of the conscious mind to impose its will in the rest of the brain. Neurological science and neurotechnology are weapons in the war that the conscious mind is waging with other parts of the brain. But in some cases I'm thinking the other parts of the brain are winning by making the conscious mind figure out ways to give the rest of the mind what it wants (e.g. more sex with the help of Levitra, Cialis, and Viagra).

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 October 02 10:25 PM  Brain Appetite

averros said at October 3, 2007 12:59 AM:

Ecstasy (aka MDMA) is not addictive. Neither is anorexia. (One anorexic I know rather closely says she often feels like she's on E... she eats ok when I feed her, but simply won't look for food herself).

The linkage between appetite and serotonin is quite simple - serotonin release is what makes satiety pleasureable. It is triggered by a lot of different things, food intake included. (That's also why depressed people often "self-medicate" by overeating).

If a person feels satisfied the food-seeking, sex-seeking, novelty-seeking, etc behaviours are reduced. There's nothing surprising or novel about that.

DougM said at October 3, 2007 7:11 AM:

I wanted to lose some extra pounds about a year ago, and I didn't radically change my diet (other than counting calories and cutting back on refined sugar). However, I weighed myself every morning (right when I got up, so I felt a little hungry). I trained myself to feel "good" when the numbers on the scale dropped. Since I was more hungry when I was doing "good", I started to associate hunger with the "good" feeling. This carried over into the rest of the day and pushed me through the long mid-afternoon periods when I was craving a snack.

I went from almost 180 lbs to my lowest at 158 in about 3 months. I am a 5'11" male, so 158 lbs isn't a lot! I stopped the "program" because I started to get scared that I wouldn't be able to stop losing weight. I cut back on the calorie counting and sugar restrictions and am now just under 170 lbs. Now, when I weigh myself, I associate 170 as "good". If I get too close to 165, I subconsciously eat more. Anything above 175, I cut back on desserts and snacks.

The powers of the mind can be pretty scary. I wasn't bingeing and purging or starving myself (I ate 1,600-1,800 kcals per day), but I got into a feeback loop which was almost too effective.

Joshua Allen said at October 9, 2007 12:42 PM:

@averros: nobody believes anymore that "e is not addictive". it's certainly a lot different than cigarettes or cocaine, but it's highly psychologically addictive.

@randall: "Biotechnology is going to strengthen the power of the conscious mind to impose its will in the rest of the brain" -- Wow... what a stunning mis-read of human nature. The conscious mind *always* takes it's initial orders from something emotional or subconscious. Hypnotists, poets, temptresses, and salesmen know this well. In fact, scientists and Baptists seem to be the only people who are foolish enough to believe that conscious reason is separate from emotion and subconscious.

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