Scientists have discovered how a group of neurons in a specific area of the brain could be contributing to late-night pizza binges. The zona incerta area is not largely studied but receives input from many parts of the brain. The team found that mice who received deep brain stimulation in this area actually portrayed binge eating characteristics.

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Researchers conducted a study on mice where they stimulated GABA neurons in the zona incerta. Within seconds, the mice began to binge eat. After continuously stimulating the area for 10 minutes, the critters ate 35 percent of their food storage, which was supposed to last 24 hours. When the team stimulated the neurons every five minutes for two weeks, the mice ate more, which of course resulted in weight gain. Once the mice were left alone, their portions went back to normal. Certain medications and alcohol can stimulate the GABA neurons in humans.

This new piece of research gives scientists a better understanding about binge eating disorder, which isn't well understood. Many medical professionals agree that binge eating is due to a combination of genetic, biological and psychological factors. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 2.8 percent of people in the United States will struggle with this at some point. More than just overeating, binges occur when people lose a sense of control over their eating habits. Bingers don’t typically purge, as in the case of bulimia, and many are often overweight. These periods of binges usually cause psychological distress as people feel guilty, shame and distressed.

Binge eating is associated with mental health problems and nearly half of bingers have been depressed, though the relationship between the two is not known. Some people binge eat in response to emotions like anxiety or boredom. Studies have shown that eating disorders can run in the family, indicating it might be an inherited problem.

A study from Michigan State University linked the disorder to impulsivity problems. The university gathered 612 female twins to study difficulty controlling food consumption. About 14 percent of the participants reported binge eating, overeating or loss of control when eating. The findings showed that people who were unable to control food consumption were more likely to have impulse control problems when dealing with negative emotions.

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Since binge eating is tied to psychological issues, psychotherapy is usually used as a treatment option. Cognitive behavioral therapy, Interpersonal psychotherapy and dialectical behavior therapy are three types typically utilized to treat binge eating. Mayo Clinic says medications can also be used. Vyvanse, an attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder medication, is FDA-approved to treat moderate and severe binge eating and some antidepressants can be used as well.

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