The neuroanatomy of a sugar binge


An interesting new fMRI study – free full text here  – found that when normal subjects’ blood glucose was brought up to sugar-binge levels (a whopping 160-180 md/dl; most of us cruise around at <100 mg/dl, and only after a candy-binge would we hit 160) they effectively turned their hypothalami off (relative to fasting baselines.)

If the results hold up (it was your classic fMRI 17-subject study), they provide intriguing evidence that “emotional eating” binges may be just the opposite – efforts to turn off emotion. Have people who binge eat after distressing experiences stumbled upon a hypothalamic emergency brake?

The authors conclude with some unsupportable (by the present study; fMRI notoriously can’t look at which neurons in a voxel are responsible for the activity) speculation about hypocretin as the mechanism driving the results; far more sophisticated and invasive analyses will be required to test this hypothesis.

19 thoughts on “The neuroanatomy of a sugar binge

  1. great presentation. never heard of povlaygal theory. i am trying to figure out how to use this with neurological populations. some may have difficulty with social regulation due to neurological injury. so can we cause some povlaygal stimulation in damaged nervous systems and how do we do that in psychotherapy.

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About Peter Freed, M.D.

I am a psychiatrist (psychopharmacology and psychotherapy) specializing in the so-called "personality disorders," particularly narcissistic and borderline personality disorders. I was a Fellow and then an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia from 2004- 2011. I am currently in private practice in NYC.