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Brain implant could help stop smoking

By aemetha, Jul 19, 2016 | | |
  1. aemetha

    Giving up alcohol or smoking could soon be much easier - by using a brain implant which stops cravings.

    Scientists are trialling a pioneering technique which involves implanting a tiny programmable device into the brain.

    The implant targets the part of the brain responsible for controlling cravings and also helps to reduce levels of stress, which can worsen addictions.

    It uses cutting-edge neuro-stimulators designed to enable scientists to 'talk' to the brain through electrical stimulation.

    Neurosurgeon Dirk De Ridder, of the University of Otago in New Zealand, inserted implants into the brains of six alcoholic patients who had tried every other type of non-surgical treatment. Since surgery, none of the patients has abused alcohol and two have also given up smoking.

    The results suggest the implant could also help with obsessive compulsive disorder, which is controlled by the same part of the brain as addictions.

    Previous trials in Germany used implants to fight alcoholism by targeting the reward centres of the brain but almost all of the participants relapsed.

    Prof Dirk De Ridder said the surgery was unique because it targeted cravings - one of the three main reasons addicts relapse. The other two were stress and cues, such as walking past a bar or seeing a supermarket offer.

    He said: "You can't do anything about cues, and you can treat stress but that probably isn't so efficient, so that's why we opted to go after cravings. But the target we are using overlaps with an area in the brain that also involves stress."

    The professor added: "The main problem with current stimulators is that they are derived from pacemaker technology, and the heart is a relatively simple organ to stimulate, whereas the brain is somewhat more complex.

    "That's why we've had to push the technology to create the bigger versatility - or enable more languages - that might improve the result.

    "I've now got more languages with which to communicate with the brain, which hopefully should improve the outcome."

    Prof De Ridder's research will be presented at a conference in Barcelona next year and could then be widened to include more patients from around the world.

    New Zealand Herald


  1. mmmbreakfast
    This is beyond amazing. I hope to see a lot of successful trials.
  2. monkeyspanker
    I agree, Neurosurgeon Dirk De Ridder deserves an award for just starting this exciting research, imagine the posibilities for the future :thumbsup:

    I would love to quit tobacco once and for all!!
  3. mess clean
    Very interesting approach.

    I'd be curious to see where this leads to in addiction treatment.
  4. Weltmeister
    I have the strange feeling that these things will get abused. They gotta satisfy the cravings somehow
  5. mess clean
    The article doses mention a couple trials in Germany for alcoholism, but almost all the test subjects relapsed.

    Seems like the area of the brain they were targeting had a complex series of connections. It might not work on all addictions for all people.

    It does end on a positive note and mentions the ultimate use of more precisely controlled electrical impulses.

    I think it has potential.
  6. Weltmeister
    It definitely has potential to do many good things. Lets just hope that the technology is too complex for people to figure out how to abuse it.
  7. Name goes here
    This type of technology concerns me. It's beyond amazing how far science has come when it comes to integrating technology into humans. In 2014 I believe, a chip was created that is implanted into a woman's spine and gives instant orgasms to those who couldn't have them before. Now we can shut off cravings with a brain implant. We're on track for being able to fix almost anything with a computer implant.

    My worries are going to greatly increase when this type of procedure becomes the norm. Weight loss, depression, undesirable attitudes can be turned into court ordered implants for criminals or into children when they act up.

    Maybe I just need to put my tin foil hat on. No more watching terminator movies or reading Orson Welles 1984.
  8. LadySue
    Man, oh man, I couldn't agree with you more NGH. On the one hand I find the technology amazing and think of the people it could really help, but I personally would have to be pretty desperate before I would start having things implanted into my body - especially my brain. Hell, there's times I regret being on facebook or using those annoying loyalty cards from everywhere. Always this nagging feeling of being tracked...too much "on the grid" so to speak. ***going to get my tinfoil hat***

    And let's not forget, Opioids were also a scientific breakthrough and look where that's gotten us.
  9. detoxin momma
    ^^^ agreed LadySue, i'd have to be dying from smoking before i'd let someone poke around my brain.

    its only a matter of time before this becomes standard procedure.ive thought about this a few times.
    not just with the smoking, but implants period.

    if a dog or cat can get an implant to track them when they're lost, when does it become standard procedure for people.
    its only a matter of time.

    part of me wants to say, its a conspiracy! *They* are just telling us thats why the implant is being used.
    eventually every baby born will automatically be getting one of these.
    with 1000s of kids going missing a year, its a wonder why it isnt happening already.

    paranoia, maybe.but i wont be surprised when/if we start hearing about it.
    too bad it didn't happen with my little ones. i'd want a remote so i can shock them when they don't listen, lol.. just kidding :/
  10. AKA_freckles
    I agree with NGH and Lady Sue.TBH, I'd rather smoke. Or, you know, take some bupropion.

    We were posting at the same time DM:).
  11. aemetha
    I do think it's worth noting that the really complicated parts of these implants is actually the putting it in the right place and working out what electrical impulses to send. The actual device in the brain is probably incredibly simple, doing nothing more than send a small electrical charge into the target area. It certainly wouldn't be able to communicate effectively with the outside world, a transmitter small enough isn't capable of the range necessary for practicality and the skull has already proven problematic with the development of brain computer interfaces, many having to be inserted beneath the skull to be effective.

    A certain amount of concern is obviously warranted when we are talking about influencing human emotions and cognitive processes in this way, but lets not forget here, we are already doing that by taking drugs to begin with. This is arguably a better solution than a drug because it is more targeted.

    At some point, probably in the not too distant future we will crack quantum computing and begin to create computers that can design new computers better than we can. At that point we will have to decide whether to let technology surpass us, or to integrate better with it. It's a scary thought admittedly, but I don't think it is one we can run away from.

    Anyway, just my devils advocacy on the discussion. Please continue. :D
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