Brain Stimulation in Rats Suggest New, Unconventional Therapy for Human Cocaine Addiction
By stimulating one part of the brain with laser light, researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at UC San Francisco (UCSF) have shown that they can wipe away addictive behavior in rats – or conversely turn non-addicted rats into compulsive cocaine seekers.
“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.
Described this week in the journal Nature, the new study demonstrates the central role the prefrontal cortex plays in compulsive cocaine addiction. It also suggests a new therapy that could be tested immediately in humans, said Billy Chen of NIDA, the lead author of the study.
Any new human therapy would not be based on using lasers, but would most likely rely on electromagnetic stimulation outside the scalp, in particular a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Clinical trials are now being designed to test whether this approach works, Chen added.
The High Cost of Cocaine Abuse
Cocaine abuse is a major public health problem in the United States today, and it places a heavy toll on society in terms of lost job productivity, lost earnings, cocaine-related crime, incarcerations, investigations, and treatment and prevention programs.
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