Tiny brain chips to be implanted in overweight patients to fight the rise of obesity.
Last year, researchers proved that obese mice who had the implants ate 60% less fatty foods. They hope the success can now be replicated in humans.
Six morbidly obese people have agreed to take part in a clinical trial of a brain chip that zaps them when they think about food.
The chip, known as a responsive neurostimulation system (RNS), was originally developed by medical technology company NeuroPace to treat people with epilepsy.
The chip will monitor brain activity for six months, then turn on the stimulation – in this case, food. It will then try to look for the pattern of activity in the brain that signals the starts of a food binge.
Researchers will try to determine if the implant is feasible and safe, and then try to ascertain how effective it is.
To be eligible for the study, people must have a body mass index (BMI) of over 45 and not have lost weight from gastric bypass surgery or cognitive behavioural therapy.
“These are patients who are essentially dying of their obesity,” Stanford’s Dr Casey Halpern told Medium’s health outlet Elemental .
The challenge, according to the scientists, will be separating the brain’s response to fatty foods from its response to healthy foods, and from other feelings of reward.
There is also concern that the stimulation could cause feelings of depression or anhedonia – a loss of interest in things and a general inability to experience pleasure.