Enhanced Striatal Dopamine Release During Food Stimulation in Binge Eating Disorder




Subjects with binge eating disorder (BED) regularly consume large amounts of food in short time periods. The neurobiology of BED is poorly understood. Brain dopamine, which regulates motivation for food intake, is likely to be involved. We assessed the involvement of brain dopamine in the motivation for food consumption in binge eaters. Positron emission tomography (PET) scans with [11C]raclopride were done in 10 obese BED and 8 obese subjects without BED. Changes in extracellular dopamine in the striatum in response to food stimulation in food-deprived subjects were evaluated after placebo and after oral methylphenidate (MPH), a drug that blocks the dopamine reuptake transporter and thus amplifies dopamine signals. Neither the neutral stimuli (with or without MPH) nor the food stimuli when given with placebo increased extracellular dopamine. The food stimuli when given with MPH significantly increased dopamine in the caudate and putamen in the binge eaters but not in the nonbinge eaters. Dopamine increases in the caudate were significantly correlated with the binge eating scores but not with BMI. These results identify dopamine neurotransmission in the caudate as being of relevance to the neurobiology of BED. The lack of correlation between BMI and dopamine changes suggests that dopamine release per se does not predict BMI within a group of obese individuals but that it predicts binge eating.