Scientists find promising treatment for obesity in people with schizophrenia

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Recent research has uncovered a promising approach to addressing obesity in individuals with schizophrenia.

A study published in Schizophrenia Bulletin introduces a noninvasive treatment method that could significantly benefit patients struggling with weight issues due to their condition and medication side effects.

The Study: Noninvasive Brain Stimulation

The research, led by Dongyu Kang, M.D., from The Second Xiangya Hospital of Central South University in China, involved a double-blind, randomized trial.

The study focused on 40 overweight individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia. These participants were divided into two groups: one received active treatment, and the other underwent a sham (placebo) intervention.

The active treatment group experienced a series of 50 accelerated continuous theta burst stimulation (cTBS) sessions. This noninvasive magnetic stimulation technique was applied over the left primary motor area of the brain.

Significant Weight Reduction Observed

The results were noteworthy. Participants in the active treatment group showed a significant reduction in body weight and body mass index (BMI).

Impressively, this improvement was not only evident immediately after the intervention but also persisted at a one-month follow-up.

Impact on Impulsivity and Attention

An intriguing aspect of the study was its effect on impulsivity, a common challenge among individuals with schizophrenia. The active treatment group exhibited a decrease in impulsivity, as measured by the Barratt Impulsivity Scale.

This reduction in impulsivity mediated the cTBS treatment’s effect on body weight, suggesting a direct link between the two.

Moreover, the treatment appeared to alter how participants responded to food-related cues.

There was a noticeable change in the late positive potential component during a food picture cue electroencephalograph task, indicating shifts in motivated attention and emotional processing related to food.

Addressing Metabolic Side Effects of Antipsychotics

This study holds particular significance due to the severe metabolic side effects often associated with second-generation antipsychotics, commonly prescribed for schizophrenia.

Weight gain and obesity are frequent side effects of these medications, posing additional health risks to patients.

A Step Forward in Schizophrenia Treatment

The findings from this study open up a new avenue for treating obesity in patients with schizophrenia, offering a noninvasive, potentially effective method to counteract one of the most challenging side effects of their medication.

As obesity can significantly impact the quality of life and overall health of these individuals, this new approach could be a crucial step forward in comprehensive schizophrenia treatment.

In conclusion, the use of accelerated cTBS as a treatment modality for obesity in individuals with schizophrenia shows promise, potentially revolutionizing the approach to managing weight-related issues in this patient population.

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The research findings can be found in Schizophrenia Bulletin.