Scientists are developing a chip that zaps obese people when they think about food
We have potentially made groundbreaking progress in the fight against obesity, all thanks to technology. A team of researchers at Stanford University have developed a chip which could switch off the urge to overeat in morbidly obese people
The team is now conducting a clinical trial involving six morbidly obese people. The intention is that the chip will zap the six participants with mild electric shocks when merely thinking about food.
Officially known as the Responsive Neurostimulation System (RNS), the chip was developed by medical technology company NeuroPace to treat symptoms of epilepsy - namely, seizures.
Once the RNS is implanted in the brain, it continuously records brain activity and sends the sufferer a mild electric shock when it detects the onset of a seizure.
Essentially, it's supposed to stop the seizure in its tracks.
The technique became even more of a game-changer when it was demonstrated in a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that it could also be used to eradicate overeating in mice.
And the Stanford scientists plan to discover whether the technique could also work on humans who have a tendency to binge eat.
The clinical trial will be conducted over a period of more than five years and will entail the six participants having the RNS chip implanted in their brains for at least 18 months at a time.
Brain activity will be monitored for six months before turning on the stimulation - food - which should identify the sort of activity which occurs when binge eating takes place.
The scientists are hoping to ascertain whether or not the procedure is safe, feasible, and, of course, effective.
It is not intended for people who are only trying to lose a little bit of weight, but instead for those with a BMI of over 45.
"These are patients who are essentially dying of their obesity," Dr Casey Halpern, from Stanford told Medium's health outlet Elemental.
One of the concerns that the scientists have is that it is not feasible to distinguish between the brain's response to healthy foods and unhealthy foods and from other feelings of reward.
In any case, if it is, on the whole, effective - it will be a revolutionary form of treatment for morbidly obese people.