Saturday, October 6, 2007

Anorexia, Ecstasy, and Addiction

What do anorexia and the club drug ecstasy have in common? It's not trance music or glow sticks.

A paper published this week reports that both anorexia and ecstasy reduce the drive to eat by stimulating the same subset of receptors for the neurotransmitter serotonin. These receptors (called 5-HT4) are located in a part of the brain associated with feelings of reward; they are also known to play a role in addiction. In other words, anorexics can get "hooked" on starvation.

French scientist Valerie Compan and her colleagues found that stimulating these receptors caused anorexic-like behavior in mice, while blocking the receptors increased food intake. Their research could lead to new treatments and help build a greater understanding of the addictive aspects of anorexia.

"Our studies over seven years now open the possibility that 5-HT4 receptor could represent an important therapeutic target to treat patients suffering from these disorders," Compan said.

We feel bad for those poor little anorexic mice, but we're glad to hear that they got some effective treatment. We are excited to find out if it will work on humans, too. [Reuters] [Telegraph]


cerebralmum said...

I remember reading years ago that anorexics often have fewer serotonin receptors than the average person. I wonder how these two findings interact?

T.S.T. said...

I see tremendous promise in research on the brain science side of eating disorders, even if there are clear cultural and emotional components as well. I did some of my own speculation recently on my ED recovery blog: