TSRI Scientists Show Deep Brain Stimulation Blocks Heroin Relapse in Rats
Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found that deep brain stimulation (DBS) can greatly reduce the compulsion to use heroin in standard rat models of addiction. Rats that were used to taking heroin and normally would have self-administered more and more of the drug, did not escalate their intake when treated with DBS. The treatment involves the weak electrical stimulation, via implanted electrodes, of a brain region called the subthalamic nucleus. “It has been very difficult to reduce heroin-seeking and -taking in an animal model because heroin is such an addictive drug, but the results here are very impressive,” said the study’s principal investigator Olivier George, an associate professor in TSRI’s Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders. “This is the type of preclinical evidence that one needs, in order to start testing this strategy in humans.” DBS of the subthalamic nucleus is already used to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and a separate movement disorder known as “essential tremor.”
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