Behaviour-modifying brain implants that once belonged in the realm of science fiction are now a scientific fact, and the focus of a new clinical trial.
Working with pharmaceutical companies and clinical research organisations brings us into daily contact with professionals who are dedicated to solving our most urgent healthcare issues. Any discussion about dangers to our health should include opioid addiction, and solutions have been hard to find. How do we address an addiction that preys on the mind and the body?
Medical researchers at the West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI) and West Virginia University Medicine (WVU) are now trialling a radical treatment that would have been unthinkable a few short years ago.
By implanting a tiny electronic simulation device directly into the brain, it’s hoped that the triggers for addiction and self-control behaviours can be reprogrammed. The device – known as a deep brain simulation – will send out impulses designed to monitor cravings, delivering data on the mental processes of opioid addicts who’ve resisted other types of treatment. And yes, these impulses are planned to curb addiction and the actions associated with it.
This week the initial trial got underway, focusing on just four patients, each of whom has been through a range of treatments without success. Some clinicians will no doubt have misgivings about this programme. Others may see it as a viable last resort for people whose lives are being ruined and shortened by their addiction, and who have exhausted other treatment options. Either way, the behaviour-changing brain implants that once belonged in the realm of science fiction are now a scientific fact. They’re part of the clinical trial landscape, and whatever our individual views may be on the programme, we’ll surely all be interested in the results. Soon enough we’ll find out what can happen when a behaviour-changing electronic simulation device is always on your mind.
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