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Medicine Shark Science

Firing a Laser Into Your Brain Could Help Beat a Drug Addiction 156

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-re-arrange-me-till-I'm-sane dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The prelimbic region of the prefrontal cortex in the human brain is thought to play a key role in drug addiction, and researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse wanted to see if manipulating cells there had a positive or negative impact on that addiction. They got some rats addicted to cocaine but not before loading them up with light sensitive proteins called rhodopsins that were placed in their prefrontal cortex, attaching to the neurons there. By shining a tuned laser light on to the prefrontal cortex, it was possible to activate and deactivate the cells. By turning them on with the laser, the addictive behavior of the rats was removed. Turning them off, even in non-addicted rats, saw the addictive behavior return or introduced."
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Firing a Laser Into Your Brain Could Help Beat a Drug Addiction

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  • Sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by no-body (127863) on Friday April 05, 2013 @01:04AM (#43365975)
    Lobotomy was used once as a remedy for many things...

    Folks changed after that. Some think to the better for society.

    Depends on perspective.
  • Re:Good call (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nyder (754090) on Friday April 05, 2013 @01:35AM (#43366069) Journal

    The War or Drugs will be stopped once and for all when this laser comes out.

    The War on Drugs could be stopped by making drugs legal.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 05, 2013 @02:17AM (#43366201)

    Just looked at the paper and...Where is the scatter plot between lever presses and cocaine infusions??? NATURE EDITORS, DEMAND TO SEE THE ACTUAL DATA AND NOT JUST AVERAGES. Put it in the supplements if it is too complicated for the normal audience.

  • Re:Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Friday April 05, 2013 @02:20AM (#43366207)

    Gene therapy is just hard in general. The exact effect of a virus is unpredictable, it'll only alter a small number of cells at best and will likely kill a lot more in the attempt, or turn them cancerous. It isn't even out of clinical trial yet. The blood-brain barrier shouldn't pose any difficulty though: Simply inject directly into CSF and bypass it entirely.

  • by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday April 05, 2013 @05:04AM (#43366647) Journal
    Redundant is appropriate, by definition the raw data is redundant after it has been properly analyzed, by definition a published paper is a "proper" analysis. It may be wrong but if it's the only analysis then by definition it is the best analysis we have. Einstein's famous 1905 paper was 3 pages long and had zero references, it was quickly recognized as a work of uncommon genius by other physicists.

    The first thing they teach you in statistics is to create a scatter plot and just eyeball it for a one of several standard curves that MIGHT fit, the next step is averages (or some other metric) to see if your guess holds up to scrutiny. Thing is, eye-balling is not evidence and publishing only the calculated curve is normal practice. I don't have a Nature account so I can't easily confirm/deny the AC's claim that the raw data is unavailable (ironically because the AC did not publish his raw data). However since this looks like government funded research I think it's more likely the AC just eye-balled the paper and missed it.

    Besides all that, a real scientist wouldn't bitch and moan if they couldn't find the raw data, they would just contact the author and ask politely, if that didn't work they would run their own experiments. At the end of the day the scientific way to overturn the results from one experiment is run one or more independent experiments that convincingly refute the original results.

    To paraphrase one of the best science teachers to ever walk the earth - "The key to science is that if your beautifully presented, leather bound, iron-clad logic disagrees with experiments, it's wrong". - Feynman [youtube.com]
  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Niedi (1335165) on Friday April 05, 2013 @06:24AM (#43366885)

    Gene therapy is not particularly hard, and there's clinical trials and decades old cases where it have had success. Why is this myth propagated? Did the major fuckup and misconduct in the Jesse Gelsinger case really have that much publicity?

    Though I guess, every religious nut, moral-code internet warrior, environmentalist nutcase and anti-GMO opinionist would of course latch onto this outlier case and present it as a rule rather than exception, because some delusion of purity is more important than saving and improving lives.

    Disclaimer: I work in neuroscience and have used viral transfection quite a lot.

    Myth? It's not trivial to get the infectous titer and purity of the virus right and it's even harder (read: almost impossible) to predict the exact expression levels that the virus will cause in an actual brain. Much less if such a potential overexpression of a non-native protein will mess up regular cell trafficking/function. Even if the protein is thought to be harmless (as is the case with Channelrhodopsin or Halorhodopsin), the sheer fact that the cell now has to produce, store and process large numbers of something it usually doesn't have can cause problems and take resources away from the normal function. Plus any virus that will stably integrate into the genome can cause all kinds of fuck up down the road since you don't know WHERE it will integrate and what other function it might overwrite.

    Don't get me wrong, it is interesting, it is potentially very beneficial but I'd still be cautious when applying it in the brain (as opposed to applying it in muscle or skin cells) since adult neurogenesis isn't really happening much...

I bet the human brain is a kludge. -- Marvin Minsky

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