September 12, 2019  Print

A new study from The Westmead Institute for Medical Research (WIMR) aims to understand how the drug lisdexamfetamine (LDX) improves the symptoms of binge eating disorder.

Researchers Dr Kristi Griffiths and Jenny Yang from WIMR's Brain Dynamics Centre.


Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in Australia, and can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender and sociocultural background. It is characterised by recurrent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food and marked distress without inappropriate compensatory behaviours, amongst other diagnostic criteria set in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Researcher Dr Kristi Griffiths, co-principal investigator of the study, said, “Binge eating disorder is a recognised mental health condition. It’s more than just eating a bit too much in one sitting – binge eating disorder refers to recurrent episodes of excessive eating, and may be accompanied by other conditions, such as mood and anxiety disorders.”

Left untreated, the disorder can increase the risk of other physical health complications, such as weight gain and obesity.

Although psychological treatment such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is recommended as the first-line of treatment for binge eating disorder, some patients may not have access to such services and others may not respond to psychological treatment.  In these cases, medication such as LDX may be an appropriate option.

Research has shown that LDX is effective in treating the symptoms of binge eating disorder, and it is the only medication with regulatory approval. However, researchers currently do not know how LDX affects the brain, and provides symptom relief.

WIMR researchers are recruiting individuals to participate in a study investigating the neural mechanisms by which LDX improves the symptoms of binge eating disorder.

Dr Griffiths said, “To date, very few studies have been published on the neural effects of LDX in moderate to severe binge eating disorder.

“Research suggests that binge eating disorder is linked to certain parts of the brain that relate to reward and inhibition, such as the dopamine system, and the front striatal regions of the brain.

“We believe that our study will show that LDX acts by normalising connectivity within and between brain circuits responsible for reward and impulse control.”

The study will recruit 40 participants with moderate to severe binge eating disorder and 22 healthy controls. Participants will be assessed before and after an eight-week course of LDX.

“We’ll be performing resting-state functional MRI (rs-fMRI), which will tell us about the organisation of the brain, and using other data collected from self-reported questionnaires on each participants’ symptoms.

“Through this study, we aim to understand exactly how LDX affects the brain, which could have wide benefits for patients and researchers.

“We hope that the results of this study will help patients better understand the treatment they are taking, and the reason they are taking it.

“The results could also lead to further research into how other forms of treatment could target the neurobiological mechanisms that are involved in binge eating disorder.”

The study protocol was published in the Journal of Eating Disorders.

The study is currently recruiting participants. If you are living with binge eating disorder, and are 18 to 40 years of age, you may be eligible to participate. 
For eligibility requirements, visit:

Dr Kristi Griffiths is affiliated with The Westmead Institute for Medical Research and University of Sydney.
This study is funded by an investigator-initiated trial awarded to Dr Kristi Griffiths and Associate Professor Michael Kohn by Shire Pharmaceuticals, which is now part of Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited.
This study is sponsored by the University of Sydney and has been approved by the WSLHD Human Research Ethics Committee.