Addiction isn’t easy to let go of. A reformed addict knows the psychological willpower needed to quit any kind of addiction. But scientists have now found a way that could help solve alcoholism through just an operation.
Researchers from Scripps Research have found that it is possible to reverse the desire to drink in alcohol-dependent rats, by targeting a specific part of the brain with lasers, Daily Trends reported.
“This research identifies a specific neuronal population in a deep region of the brain that is activated during alcohol withdrawal and which controls alcohol drinking in a rodent model of alcoholism,” Olivier George, an associate professor at Scripps Research, told Digital Trends.
He added, “We also identify by which downstream pathways these neurons control the rest of the brain to produce addiction-like behaviours. What is so exciting about these findings is that we were able to control the motivation to drink alcohol in severely dependent individuals with the flip of a switch. By implanting fiber optics deep in the brain and turning on a laser that inhibits these neurons specifically we could dramatically decrease alcohol drinking and the physical symptoms of withdrawal.”
In the experiment, rats with a dependence on alcohol had their symptoms of addiction vanish whenever the lasers were used on CRF neurons. This caused the neurons to be inactive and it killed their desire to drink, as well as reduced the physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, like extreme shaking. However, when the lasers were turned off, the addiction symptoms would immediately return.
A study like this cannot see success overnight. “This work requires the use of cutting-edge technologies that are not approved to be used in humans yet so it may take 15 to 30 years before we see alcoholics with brain implants that help them control their craving,” George continued.
“However, this work may stimulate the development of small molecule targeting this population of neurons. By performing high-throughput screening of compounds that can inhibit these neurons we could develop new medications in a much shorter timeframe, possibly 10 to 15 years if we find the funding to do it.”