Possible link between childhood trauma and binge eating disorder

Possible link between childhood trauma and binge eating disorder

Possible link between childhood trauma and binge eating disorder.

Research led by Sora Shin, a professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute in Virginia, has revealed how a brain pathway, which usually provides signals to stop eating, can be altered by early trauma. The discovery, obtained thanks to studies on mice, was published in Nature Neuroscience and adds new perspectives to behaviors such as binge eating and obesity.


“We wanted to know the mechanism behind how early trauma induces these eating disorders.” “We found a specific brain circuit that is vulnerable to stress and that makes it dysfunctional.” “This finding relates to a broader set of questions about health – how the course of life is set based on some early experiences,” said Michael Friedlander, executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute.

We are increasingly aware that early experiences and exposures, from those that occur even before conception in prospective parents to those that the fetus experiences in the womb and those that the infant experiences during postnatal life, can have a dramatic impact on the our lifelong health journey. Like all groundbreaking research, the study also raises other important questions, such as whether and how these effects can be changed. According to Shin’s research, the stress of mice separated from their littermates can trigger lifelong changes in feeding behavior.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, binge-eating disorder is characterized by recurrent episodes of eating more rapidly than normal to overcome feelings of fullness and by feelings of distress and loss of control . To identify the link between the disorder and early life traumas, Shin and his lab team studied the impact of a hormone in the brain called leptin . It has long been known that leptin suppresses appetiteand weight gain by signaling the brain that it’s time to stop eating. Researchers found that in mice that experienced early stress and exhibited binge-like behavior, leptin was less effective in a part of the brain called the lateral hypothalamus , where many behaviors are regulated. Without these signals from the brain, overfeeding continues.


“There is still a lot of research to be done,” Shin said, “but by knowing the specific molecule and brain receptors to target, we can now provide insight and the basis for developing therapeutic strategies for this disorder.”

  • Early adversity promotes binge-like eating habits by remodeling a leptin-responsive lateral hypothalamus–brainstem pathway (
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