Fighting cocaine addiction with lasers
Research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse has found that cocaine addiction can be erased by simply shining a laser onto a rat’s brain. While more research is needed, scientists feel that this could be a breakthrough in treating people with cocaine addiction.
The study found that for rats—and also humans--cocaine addiction can dull activity in the prefrontal cortex, where impulse control and decision-making takes place. In this study, scientists genetically engineered the rats' brains to turn the prefrontal cortex into a switch, which would be "flipped" when exposed to the laser's light. Once the doctors shined the laser onto the specific part of the rat's brain, the cocaine addiction was gone. However, as with any switch, it can be flipped back - the doctors could also activate cocaine addiction by shining the laser again, even in rats that were never hooked.
Though lasers likely would not be used on humans, the scientists say it is possible that transcranial magnetic stimulation could be implemented. It’s a non-invasive technique already used to treat depression.
Clinical trials on humans are expected to begin at the National Institutes of Health. An estimated 1.4million Americans are addicted to cocaine.