Brain Implant Was Last Hope For Anorexia Patient

By Nick Venable | Updated

Thirty-six-year-old Ontario native Kim Rollins was a true victim of anorexia, constantly obsessing over food, her weight, and exercise, sometimes eating just a piece of fruit a day and then working those calories off. When traditional treatments failed her and death seemed like the eventual conclusion, her last ditch effort was to volunteer to be one of the first people in the world to be treated for an eating disorder by attaching an electrode that provided deep-brain electrical stimulation as a treatment.

At times down to just 71 pounds, Rollins had suffered a heart attack, two strokes, broken bones, and early-onset osteoporosis. By the time the treatment started, she was at 90 pounds, and is now at the near ideal weight of 120 pounds for her 5’2 frame. What’s more, her mental state has gone through a complete overhaul, and she no longer finds herself overwhelmed by anxiety, depression, or the obsessions that plagued her for so many years.

Kim Rollins, now at a healthy weight after the treatment.
Kim Rollins, now at a healthy weight after the treatment.

Six volunteers took part in the treatment, which focused on balancing the subcallosal cingulate — the area of the brain that manages mood, anxiety, and depression — and the parietal cortex, which is linked to how one perceives their body. Though the researchers from the Krembil Neuroscience Centre of Toronto Western Hospital thought they would have to attach an electrode to each area, a single attachment has sufficed to keep both in line. The neural probe is connected by wires embedded under the skin to a replaceable battery unit inserted beneath the collarbone, and the device works something like a pacemaker for the brain.

The treatment has already done wonders for over 100,000 Parkinson’s sufferers, and although it’s still in its early stages, such positive results bode well for the future, where preventative diseases such as anorexia will one day be eaten up by medicine.