The Alzheimer's drug memantine may also reduce the addictive and impulsive behaviour associated with binge eating, says a study.
A specific area in the brain, the nucleus accumbens, which is responsible for addictive behaviours, facilitates the effects of memantine, the findings showed.
"We found that memantine blocks binge eating of junk food, blocks the strength of cues associated with junk food and blocks the compulsivity associated with binge eating," explained senior author Pietro Cottone, an associate professor at Boston University School of Medicine.
Binge-eating disorder is characterised by periods of excessive uncontrolled consumption of food, followed by uncomfortable fullness and feelings of self-disgust.
The researchers used an experimental model to simulate binge-eating behaviour, and were able to identify the area of the brain associated with binge-eating and then suppress the behaviour by applying memantine directly into that area.
This research opens new avenues for binge eating treatment especially since memantine is a drug already approved for other indications.
New evidence indicates that changes in brain chemistry reflecting the addictive nature of binge eating may parallel drug and alcohol addiction.
The study appeared online in the journal Neuopsychopharmacology.