Objective: To investigate the effect of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on food craving, intake, binge eating desire, and binge eating frequency in individuals with binge eating disorder (BED). Method: N = 30 adults with BED or subthreshold BED received a 20-min 2 milliampere (mA) session of tDCS targeting the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC; anode right/cathode left) and a sham session. Food image ratings assessed food craving, a laboratory eating test assessed food intake, and an electronic diary recorded binge variables. Results: tDCS versus sham decreased craving for sweets, savory proteins, and an all-foods category, with strongest reductions in men (p < 0.05). tDCS also decreased total and preferred food intake by 11 and 17.5%, regardless of sex (p < 0.05), and reduced desire to binge eat in men on the day of real tDCS administration (p < 0.05). The reductions in craving and food intake were predicted by eating less frequently for reward motives, and greater intent to restrict calories, respectively. Discussion: This proof of concept study is the first to find ameliorating effects of tDCS in BED. Stimulation of the right DLPFC suggests that enhanced cognitive control and/or decreased need for reward may be possible functional mechanisms. The results support investigation of repeated tDCS as a safe and noninvasive treatment adjunct for BED.
- cognitive control
- food craving
- palatable eating motives scale (PEMS)
- sex differences