The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is using lasers in a new way, turning them on people in the fight against drug addiction.
Not only are scientists at NIDA hoping to point the lasers at people who struggle with drug addiction – they’re actually planning to fire them straight into people’s’ brains.
So far the scientist have used the new laser technique on rats with good results.
In a classic example of ‘did they really do that???’ the experiment went like this:
Rats in a lab were supplied with cocaine if they pressed a lever. However, pressing the lever would also lead to an electrical shock. Some rats kept coming back for more cocaine, seemingly choosing to live with the pain from the electrical shocks.
Scientists noticed a distinct change in the cells in the prefrontal cortex area of the brain in these rats.
The addicted rats were then given light-sensitive proteins, which were placed (don’t ask how; seriously, don’t) in the prefrontal cortex. Shining a laser on the proteins would then activate them, and the result was that the addictive behaviour of the rats ceased.