Scientists have discovered a way to end addiction or addictive behavior in rats. A laser light fires neurons to the brain where the addictive behavior is stored. The light signals the neurons to turn “on” or “off”. When the neurons are neutralized, or “off”, the addiction is highlighted on a chart of the brain.
“When we turn on a laser light in the prelimbic region of the prefrontal cortex, the compulsive cocaine seeking is gone,” said Antonello Bonci, MD, scientific director of the intramural research program at the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), where the work was done. Bonci is also an adjunct professor of neurology at UCSF and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University.
Scientists stated that they could take this cortical neuron technology and transfer the therapy into a way that could be used for humans. The therapy the human trials would use would be electromagnetic impulses outside of the skull of the head.
The group of scientists also discovered that the rats would self-administer the drug even if they knew that self-harm was associated with it. The rats had minimal activity in the cortex of the brain that relates to impulse control and decision making. The interesting part is, the same cortex can be found in humans who have strong addictions. Potentially, humans might have a cure in the foreseeable future for addictions to drugs and other diseases. This is an amazing breakthrough in the field of technology and science. Addictions can ruin many lives. If there are successful human trials of neutralizing the addictive behavior, many people can change their lives for the better.
A few researches used optogenetics to find neurons associated with the addictive cortex of the brain and turn them off. They also used genetic engineering in a way to put the neurons into the prefrontal cortex of the rat to turn the addictive neurons on and off. Altering the neurons by the electromagnetic impulses would allow patients with addictions to be cured.
I was shocked to find out that we have the technology to potentially cure addicts. This would be a huge scientific breakthrough for the future. I hope to see more studies about this topic and read the successful trials on humans. This can change human behavior as we know it.
Billy T. Chen, Hau-Jie Yau, Christina Hatch, Ikue Kusumoto-Yoshida, Saemi L. Cho, F. Woodward Hopf, Antonello Bonci. Rescuing cocaine-induced prefrontal cortex hypoactivity prevents compulsive cocaine seeking. Nature, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nature12024