Scientists at Scripps Research say they’ve found a way to reverse rats’ dependent on alcohol by blasting particular neurons in their brains with laser beams — a change they likened to the “flip of a switch.”
“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,” said Scripps professor Olivier George, told Digital Trends. “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.”
Don’t get too excited about the prospect of a new human treatment stemming from the research, which was recently published in the journal Nature Communications. Though the Scripps researchers are hopeful about the future of the work, they cautioned that it could take decades until the tech is ready for testing on people.
“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 told Digital Trends.