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Medicine Shark Science

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

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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  • Really? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 05, 2013 @12:37AM (#43365835)

    The original article clearly was not read. These rats had their genome changed to have more rhodopsins in their prefrontal cortex. This will not happen with humans in advance of any drug addiction issues (it would have to be done with the sperm/egg?). tldr; not going to happen.

  • Re:Really? (Score:4, Informative)

    by durrr ( 1316311 ) on Friday April 05, 2013 @01:43AM (#43366097)

    Optogenetics (as the technique is more commonly called) can be 'installed' with gene therapy vectors in adult mammals, the technique can be used for both activating and silencing cells.

    It have not been tried in humans due the excessive caution around everything that is gene therapy, along with the requirement for some mildly invasive neurosurgery.

  • by girlinatrainingbra ( 2738457 ) on Friday April 05, 2013 @01:55AM (#43366127)
    re: cocaine was a terrible example since it really is not addictive to begin with.. [emphasis mine]
    Dude! You think cocaine is not addictive? You're completely wrong. It is addictive because of its effect on the mesolimbic reward pathway. I link you to wikipedia's article on cocaine [wikipedia.org] because the medical articles I found are behind paywalls and you might not be able to get to them unless you're on a university network that has medical journal access like UCSD does:
    Data from The Lancet suggests cocaine is ranked both the 2nd most addictive and the 2nd most harmful of 20 popular recreational drugs.

    another quote from the same article:

    It is addictive because of its effect on the mesolimbic reward pathway [wikipedia.org].

    You are wrong. Cocaine IS addictive.

  • by Samantha Wright ( 1324923 ) on Friday April 05, 2013 @02:38AM (#43366269) Homepage Journal

    They're not turning off anything, actually; they're restoring normal function that's destroyed by the addiction. This is the sort of stuff that stays behind after recovery and that makes it easy to relapse. The behavioural studies they performed more-or-less modelled the situation you describe: the researchers found that after four doses of cocaine, rats would normally ignore electric shocks in order to get at the drug. After treatment, the rats became less obsessed with the high and would not risk getting electrocuted again in order to have it. It wasn't as much of a return to normal function as a rat that had only had cocaine once, but it took a while to return to full addict behaviour.

    So, yes, it does address the functional problem that normal rehab fails to remedy. The area they chose to stimulate was specifically implicated as being responsible for loss of control in addicts.

Nothing is finished until the paperwork is done.