Cognitive training and tDCS for Binge Eating Disorder

Posted 04/12/2018


This study aims to investigate the feasibility of combining approach bias modification training (ABM) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to treat binge eating disorder.

What is the purpose of the research?

The study involves engaging in a computerised approach bias modification training (ABM) task that aims to modify approach tendencies towards food, while receiving transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which is a safe brain stimulation procedure widely used in research. Both the cognitive bias modification training and the non-invasive brain stimulation have separately been shown to help alleviate symptoms of eating disorders. The study also involves a series of questionnaires, computerised brain puzzles, and a food rating task.

It will evaluate if concurrent sessions of [ABM + real tDCS] are superior to [ABM + sham tDCS] and the wait-list control group in terms of reducing symptoms of binge eating disorder such as frequency of objective binge eating episodes and food cravings.

Who can take part? 

Inclusion Criteria
  • Male and female community-dwelling adults
  • Aged between 18 and 70
  • Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder (eligibility established by screening)
  • BMI greater than 25 kg/m² (Participants would be asked their current weight in an initial screening phone call to verify that you are eligible to take part).
Exclusion Criteria
  • Individuals with a significant/unstable medical or psychiatric disorders needing acute treatment in its own right (e.g., substance dependence, acute suicidality)
  • Individuals taking antidepressant medication who have not been on a stable dose for at least 2 weeks
  • Individuals with a history of epileptic seizures, stroke, or brain injury, who have any implanted metal devices in the head, frequent or severe headaches or dizziness
  • Individuals who smoke >10 cigarettes per day
  • Individuals who drink >3-4 units (men) or 2-3 units (women) of alcohol per day

Additional excluding criteria may apply and inclusion will be determined by the study screening.

What does the study involve? 

Participation consists of;

  • Completion of 3 assessment sessions across 7 weeks at the IoPPN campus in Denmark Hill.
  • After the baseline assessment, participants will be randomly allocated to one of three study conditions
  • Participants assigned to one of the two intervention conditions will be asked to attend 6 sessions where they will perform the ABM task while receiving either real or placebo tDCS, in addition to completing the post-treatment and follow-up assessments. This brain stimulation technique is widely used and considered safe.
  • Participants assigned to the control group will not receive any intervention, and will be asked to attend the post-treatment and follow-up assessments
  • Participants in the control group will be offered the opportunity to receive [ABM + real tDCS] after the follow-up assessment at 7 weeks

All participants are reimbursed £60 for completing the 3 assessments, and travel expenses for the 6 intervention sessions will be covered up to £10 per visit.

How long does it take?

  • All participants in both the intervention and control groups of the study will complete 3 assessment sessions across 7 weeks, comprised of an in-person visit (75 minutes) and online questionnaires to complete at home (45 minutes).
  • Participants in the intervention groups will attend 6 sessions of combined cognitive training and tDCS across 3 weeks, lasting 40-50 minutes per session.

How can you take part?

If you are interested in participating or would like further information, please contact Gemma Gordon at An overview of the ICARUS study can also be found on our KCL departmental webpage

Please note that contacting us for further information or partaking in the phone call screening does not mean you are obliged to take part in the study. 

Author: Gemma Gordon under the supervision of Professor Ulrike Schmidt
Affiliation: Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London
Email address:

King's College London