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A New Microchip Gives Obese People Electric Shocks Each Time They Think About Food

Now scientists at Stanford University in California, United States, are hoping that the reprogrammed device will detect brain activity before a person starts binge eating.

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Updated:August 16, 2019, 1:33 PM IST
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A New Microchip Gives Obese People Electric Shocks Each Time They Think About Food
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A brain microchip could help high-risk obese people lose weight by giving them electric shocks whenever they crave food, according to researchers from Stanford University.

Six “morbidly obese people” have already agreed to be a part of the five-year long clinical trial, which will see them wearing the chip for 18 months at a time, Metro UK reported.

Originally developed to help epilepsy patients, the microchip is called a responsive neurostimulation system (RNS), and was programmed to monitor early signs of a seizure to prevent a full epileptic fit by a tiny electrical stimulus.

Now scientists at Stanford University in California, United States, are hoping that the reprogrammed device will detect brain activity before a person starts binge eating.

The chip will also help scientists find out if electric shocks could help people who suffer from “loss-of-control eating.”

The chip will monitor brain activity for the first six months to identify the pattern of activity leading up to a food binge before starting to give the six participants a mild electric shock each time they think about food.

The scientists have however stressed that the chip is suitable only for people who are “dying of obesity.”

"These are patients who are essentially dying of their obesity," Stanford's Dr Casey Halpern told Medium's health outlet Elemental.

Participants must have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 45 — a healthy BMI is considered to be between 18.5 and 24.9— and must not have lost weight from gastric bypass surgery or cognitive behavioural therapy.

The clinical trial will focus on an nucleus accumbens, the brain’s pleasure centre, which processes feelings of reward and addiction.

But separating the brain’s response to fatty foods from its response to healthy foods could be challenging, the scientists have admitted.

Besides, the stimulation could cause feelings of depression or anhedonia or loss of interest.

The chip has already been successfully tested on mice.

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