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VR Can Help Treat Binge Eating Disorders

Researchers are using virtual reality to curb bing eating habits.

It seems the world is still figuring out exactly what to do with virtual reality. The technology has infiltrated the healthcare industry by improving medical imaging and product training for physicians. A recent PsyPost article discussed a new use for VR: teaching inhibitory control to people who suffer from binge eating disorder (BED). BED is characterized by losing control over how much one eats, leading to overconsumption. The most popular treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy, but it’s not very effective long term.

To combat this, researchers created an immersive virtual reality training focused on inhibitory control to change patients’ behavior. In a study published in Appetite, 14 adults completed a daily VR inhibitory control training. The subjects were shown unhealthy “binge” foods, healthy foods, and neutral objects paired with “no-go” and “go” tones. They were also provided controllers so they could “grab” the objects. They were instructed to refrain from grabbing the binge foods while grabbing the “go” items and bringing them to their mouths.  The study seemed to work; binge eating behavior declined throughout the training period, and binging episodes continued to drop during the two-week follow-up period. 

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